14 AUGUST 2004, Page 22

No one wronged Faria

Rod Liddle sees no case for blaming the FA executives who slept with Ms Alam And so, the regiment of horribly wronged women marches ever onward and has, in the last week or so, claimed another male scalp. Mark Palios, the chief executive of the Football Association, has resigned over his affair with Faria Alam, a personal assistant at the FA. I still don't know why he had to resign. Faria said he wasn't very good in bed and, what's more, he was a 'coldhearted cad'. So perhaps that's the reason. Maybe the chief executives of football's governing body are required to be good in bed and also warm-hearted people — because having scoured through the filth and the claims and counterclaims, I can't see anything else the man did that was 'wrong'. And having read all this stuff one becomes afflicted by a sort of madness — and anger.

A short while ago the following national football teams were eliminated from the Euro 2004 championship at an unpalatably early stage: France, England, Germany, Italy, Holland and Spain. Of those six countries, five either sacked their football coaches for presiding over such failure or waited patiently for their coaches to resign, which they did. The other country — England, of course — did not. Instead it started wondering if the national coach should be sacked for his entirely legitimate sexual relationship with that aforementioned, rather busy little secretary at the FA, Faria Alam. Never mind that Sven-Goran Eriksson presided over a failure every bit as humiliating as that which afflicted France and Holland, nor that he is a coach who either does not know how to defend a onegoal lead or is incapable of conveying to his team the correct manner in which to do so. Nor, indeed, that he has the tactical nous of Field Marshal Haig. No; Sven's career hung in the balance because he shagged some girl and decided not to share this information with the rest of the world.

In the end, Sven was saved. I'm still not sure why. Perhaps it was because Ms Alam insisted that Sven was actually rather good in bed and seemed a very nice sort of bloke who was disposed to buy her dinner a couple of times before he shagged her. Having scoured through the filth, etc., I can't find very much else to differentiate the behaviour of Palios and Eriksson: both were single men entirely at liberty to shag Ms Alam with dinner, panache or neither of these things. Even if they weren't single men it is hard to justify a threat to their respective careers simply for the rather mundane — and, I would have thought, somewhat enervating — act of shagging Ms Alam. And both, when asked about the business by the Football Association, should have said, with some force, 'I'm not telling you. Go hang yourselves.'

Ms Alam, meanwhile, has trousered a reported £750,000 for telling people how good and bad in bed Sven and Mark were. But that's OK, because she's been wronged, not merely by Sven and Mark and the Football Association, but by the press, which has — Lord have mercy — invaded her privacy. She whined about the invasion of her privacy in yet another lucrative interview earlier this week. There is very good money to be made out of whining about the invasion of your privacy. And, indeed, about being wronged by men.

But how exactly was she wronged? She slept with two men, one of whom bought her a nice dinner and the other of whom did not. Neither, understandably enough, wished to enter into a long-term relationship with her. At a guess, what they wanted was a shag. Both would have preferred their dalliances to have remained private, as indeed I suspect all of us would. Pocketing the dash, Ms Alam told the News of the World that she thought Sven didn't really have a relationship with Nancy Dell'Olio. Now, I haven't slept with Sven. I haven't even spoken to him. But even I know he has a long-term partner in Nancy Dell'Olio. So if anyone has been wronged, it is, in this order: England football supporters, the rather dignified Nancy Dell'Olio, SvenGoran Eriksson and Mark Palios. Faria Alam hasn't been wronged at all, so far as I can see. Faria Alam had sex with two men who wished for nothing more than to have sex with her. Isn't she a bit stupid if she didn't understand this fact?

But the worrying thing is the extent to which we work ourselves up into a lather when faced with a termagant who believes she has been done a grave wrong. In a sane world, the Football Association would have worried about its incompetent management of the game and England's disappointing performance at Euro 2004, and would not have given a hoot about Sven-Goran Eriksson's penchant for nibbling the necks of young women. But that is precisely what it worried about. It churned itself up into a frenzy and put out press statements about the private lives of three people, and we connived, just as we always do, displaying a delusion or an apparent ingenuousness rather similar to that displayed by Ms Alam. We forget an essential truth — that men and women generally view sex very differently for what I daresay are both genetic and culturally imposed reasons. These two views of sex are not compatible and lead, every day, to women believing that they have been horribly wronged. And for reasons I do not understand we're happy for our newspapers to pay out vast sums of money to hear this boring, predictable 'story' day after day.

Listen: I was rather pleased about the Sven and Faria business, for personal reasons. It meant that my own sexual transgression got pushed off the news pages for a while, which made me very happy indeed. I really did transgress — I was married when I fell in love with a woman who was, undoubtedly, a lot younger than me. In popular media terms that's a transgression, and I wouldn't dissent from that view. And my estranged wife trousered a whole heap of dosh — although nothing in Faria's league, I suspect — for spilling the beans in every newspaper and on every television programme prepared to offer her succour (and cash). And this despite the fact that my wife began an affair of her own about one week after we married, a fact somewhat overlooked in the reporting. But nothing can assuage the strange sense of self-righteousness of the wronged woman. Or our eagerness to lap it all up.

Even through the shame of it all, I was astonished that people were remotely interested in my sexual behaviour. It seemed to me a non-story.

When the England football team get stuffed by Austria next month — or Poland or Wales — I daresay the FA will put out a statement pledging their total support for Sven-Goran Eriksson. And if, the following month, he shags someone else who subsequently feels wronged, he'll probably get the sack. Isn't this a bizarre state of affairs?