Smoking and football: Szczesny in good company

Davie Robb celebrates Aberdeen's 1976 League Cup success with a cigarette and champagne
Davie Robb celebrates Aberdeen's 1976 League Cup success with a cigarette and champagne
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Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was last night facing a reported club fine of £20,000 following reports he smoked in the showers after the 2-0 Barclays Premier League defeat at Southampton on New Year’s Day. Here are some other famous footballers who have enjoyed a cigarette…


Aberdeen’s 1976 League Cup final hero admitted in a recent Scotsman interview that he could smoke three fags at half-time and would happily puff away before matches. “When we played Rangers, Willie Johnston and I would be puffing away in the tunnel before the game. Then we’d put our stubbies on the shelf along with a couple of matches for later,” said Robb.


Arsenal midfielder Wilshere has twice been pictured with a cigarette, once during the early hours outside a London nightclub and then again at a pool party on holiday in Las Vegas. Wilshere has since spoken of his regret but Gunners’ fans don’t mind, chanting “Jack Wilshere, he smokes when he wants”.


Wilshere posted a picture of World Cup winner Zidane smoking after he was at the centre of some negative headlines, and the Frenchman certainly never let the odd cigarette get in the way of a glittering career.


From fireworks in the bathroom to taking on the playground bullies, Italian Balotelli was rarely out of the headlines during his first stay in England at Manchester City, where his ten-a-day habit drew plenty of attention. Then City boss Roberto Mancini quipped: “It is better that he quits, but if he smokes ten cigarettes a day and scores two goals every game, then that’s better.”


There may be plenty of paparazzi snaps of Bulgarian Berbatov brandishing a cigarette, but it was, according to the man himself, more often than not just for show. He said: “Sometimes when you see a picture I just pretend to smoke to make me more of a cool guy.”


Italian Ancelotti fell foul of England’s no-smoking zones when he took over as manager of Chelsea in 2009. Instead he had to chew gum as he paced up and down the touchlines.


Dutch maestro Cruyff used to openly smoke a packet a day, which continued when he was on the touchline as coach at Barcelona before giving up in 1991 following a heart bypass operation. He said: “Football has given me everything in this life; tobacco almost took it all away.”


Like fellow Frenchman Michel Platini, Gunners boss Wenger had in his younger days taken a puff or two. He recalled: “When I was a player, nobody would ever tell you that you should not smoke. We were driving home in coaches where you had to open the windows in winter to see each other. I never smoked a lot and never when I played. But when I became a young coach I had an assistant who smoked and, at 3am in the morning when you have lost a big game, I might have one.”


Brazil midfielder Socrates studied medicine during the early years of his career, but that did not stop the bearded football genius from smoking, or indeed drinking. The captain of the 1982 and 1986 World Cup squads passed away aged 57 in Sao Paulo after suffering an intestinal infection.


Sir Bobby was once asked why after his last game for Man United (at Stamford Bridge in 1973) Chelsea’s chairman had presented him with a commemorative cigarette case. He said: “I started smoking when I was younger, but I’d stopped by then. It was a nice gesture, but there were no cigarettes included.”


Harry Redknapp recently included the two-times European Cup-winning Scot in a ‘team of the Seventies’ select and said: “John was the most unlikely professional footballer anyone had seen. He was overweight, smoked liked a trooper and, in Brian Clough’s words, was living out of a chip pan.”