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England manager's romances play out on Stockholm stage

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09:03 CEST+02:00
AFP After years of having his romantic escapades exposed in the tabloids, England national team coach Sven-Göran Eriksson's notorious liaisons have inspired a tragicomic play that opened in Stockholm this weekend.

The piece, "A play in Swedish, English and Italian", was written by British playwright Nick Grosso and depicts a number of widely publicized episodes in the Swedish coach's life. It premiered at the Dramaten theater in Stockholm on Friday.

"This is not a biography ... The piece is based on stories in the media about Sven-Göran Eriksson's life," Ulf Friberg, who plays the famous coach on stage, told AFP.

Eriksson, 57, has since he began coaching the British national team in 2000 constantly seen his personal life, and especially his many real or suspected adulterous relations, dissected in detail in the British tabloids.

A number of the people mixed up in the scandals surrounding the coach are easily recognizable as often hilarious, caricatured characters in the play, be it his mistresses, celebrities, businessmen or ruthless journalists. As the title indicates, the piece is played in Swedish, English and Italian, without voice-overs or sub-titles, by four British and three Swedish actors.

Only the voluptuous actress who comically depicts Eriksson's live-in girlfriend, Italian lawyer Nancy Dell'Olio, plays her part in Italian. Also featured in the play is "the secretary", clearly inspired by Football Association (FA) secretary and former model Faria Alam, whose fling with Eriksson remained plastered across the front pages for weeks last year in a scandal that nearly cost him his job.

Another character is "the boss", inspired by Mark Palios, who was forced to step down as head of the FA after confessing that he too had had a relationship with Alam.

And then there is "the weather girl", a clear take on Swedish television host Ulrika Jonsson, who was also rumored in the tabloids to have had an affair with Eriksson.

The coach himself meanwhile is portrayed as a charming, success-craving social-climber who time and time again naively tries to manipulate the media, only to find that he is the one being played.

"It is a comment on the role media play and how people use them," said Ulrika Holmgård, the producer on Dramaten's Elverket stage where the play is being shown.

The play, which is being co-produced by Dramaten and by the London-based Millon Fred's Productions and directed by Briton Mick Gordon, lasts only an hour and a half and uses simple decor to evoke a football setting. Holding a fast pace, each act on the green-painted stage is punctuated by recorded music and the wild cheers of football fans, bringing to life a true stadium feel.

Fifteen showings of the play are scheduled at the theatre through April 24 before possibly moving on to London, where Eriksson is even more famous than in Sweden, later in the year.

The coach himself, who has had nothing to do with the creation of the play, was invited to the premiere, but never showed up, according to Dramaten.

Sophie Mongalvy

The show is playing at Elverket in Stockholm: more information

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