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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Sunday 1st August 2004

The Eight Golden Rules Sven Needs to Know

Just how dumb is Sven-Goran Eriksson? Of all the women in the world he could have had a clandestine relationship with, he happens to choose the one who's just had an affair with the CEO of the Football Association. Doh! The only thing that can be said in favour of Faria Alam is that she isn't quite as unsuitable as Ulrika Jonsson. The story wasn't 100% guaranteed to end up in the tabloids. There was only a 99% chance.

It's beginning to look as though the 56-year-old Swede is just another B-list publicity hound. To get caught once may be regarded as a misfortune. But to get caught twice begins to look like carelessness.

What's so disappointing about this latest scandal is that it reveals just how unqualified Sven is to coach the national team. If he lacks the necessary guile to pull the wool over Nancy Dell'Olio's eyes, what hope does he have of piloting England to victory? When it comes to conducting secret affairs, he's about as wily and cunning as David Beckham.

In case any other soccer luminaries are thinking of committing adultery, here's a quick guide culled from various married men of my acquaintance:

1. Always choose someone who has as much to lose as you do if news of the affair leaks out. (Note to Sven: this rules out fading television presenters with forthcoming autobiographies to promote.)

2. Don't send texts or emails or leave telephone messages that can be used as evidence against you.

3. Never dip your pen in company ink. (Further note to Sven: this rules out members of the FA's secretarial staff.)

4. Avoid consummating the affair in either your house or her house. Stick your hand in your pocket and take her to a five-star hotel, preferably one on the Continent.

5. Don't give her your home phone number. Indeed, don't even give her your mobile number. You never know when she might call.

6. If you ever spend any serious money on her--expensive restaurants, jewellery, designer clothes, etc--make sure you pay in cash. Oh, and don't leave the receipts in your wallet. Wives and girlfriends have a nasty habit of going through your pockets.

7. Try to pick someone who's unlikely to come into contact with anyone you know. (Final note to Sven: this rules out your boss's ex-lovers.)

8. If you ever do get caught, remember the three most important rules of all: deny, deny, deny.

No More Comic Book Heros--Please!

I swear to God, if the Hollywood sausage factory churns out another film about a comic book superhero I'm never going to set foot in the cinema again. Am I the only moviegoer who finds these stories a colossal bore?

The plot is always the same. They start with some nerd getting sand kicked in his face in front of the girl next door and, after he's been exposed to something weird during a "scientific" experiment that has left him with special powers, end with the same guy saving the world. The hero doesn't get the girl, but he does get to take home a shiny new spandex outfit. The moral of the story is that being able to leap over a building in a single bound can be both a blessing and a curse.

The latest twist on this theme is Catwoman which comes to these shores on August 13th. After receiving the kiss of life from an ancient Egyptian cat, Halle Berry starts behaving rather oddly. She sleeps on high shelves, tiptoes along the back of her sofa and eats tuna fish straight out of the can. No, she doesn't start licking her private parts or defecating on the carpet, but you get the general idea. A mysterious cat lady explains that she's been given special powers and, wouldn't you know it, these powers are "both a blessing and a curse".

Luckily Catwoman limped into the number three spot at the American box office on its opening weekend so we'll be spared a sequel. But we almost certainly haven't seen the back of the character. After all, she's already appeared twice before--first played by Eartha Kitt and then by Michelle Pfiefer--and if I'm not mistaken cats have nine lives. That's the trouble with these pesky superheroes. They're so indestructible, not even a lacklustre performance at the box office can kill them off.

Hewitt The Unstoppable

I was a little astonished to read about James Hewitt's latest antics. How does a man his age have the stamina to start drinking at lunchtime, carry on all afternoon, then whistle up a couple of grams of cocaine to see him through the night? No wonder the Princess of Wales described him as a perfect physical specimen. He'd have to be in order to survive that daily regimen.

Or perhaps I just find such behaviour unimaginable because I've got a one-year-old daughter. I sometimes fantasise about staying out all night and snorting cocaine off the lavatory cisterns of Chelsea's finest wine bars, but knowing I'm going to be woken up by a little human alarm clock at 5.45am is a little bit off putting. Indeed, staying up a minute later than 11pm leaves me feeling tired and grumpy the following day.

If James Hewitt really wants to wean himself off his bad habits there's no need to check himself into the Priory. Why not just take a leaf out of my book and have a baby? As a device for keeping people on the straight and narrow, the little darlings are far more effective than any twelve-step programme.

Guantanamo Bay

I dragged my friend Sean Langan along to see Guantanamo last week. This is the latest piece of anti-American agitprop to hit the West End. I thought Sean would be the perfect person to see it with because he's made a string of critically acclaimed documentaries about the Middle East. Indeed, he's actually met one of the real-life detainees who appears as a character in the play.

Sean pointed out that the writers of the play have completely misunderstood the purpose of the Cuban internment camp. It isn't, as one character suggests, a way for the Bush administration to ginger up domestic support for the war on terror. Rather, it's intended to put the frighteners on young Muslim men throughout the Middle East who might be thinking about joining the fight against the coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The message is, 'If you take up arms against the West this is where you'll end up'," says Sean. "And in my experience it's very effective."

Sean's latest documentary, Mission Accomplished: Langan in Iraq, can be seen on BBC4 this Thursday at 10pm.

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