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Fags and Footballers: What’s the Big Deal?


Smoking is never encouraged in modern society, with it’s adverse health issues always in the forefront. But it seems that this accepted bad habit is worse when conducted by a footballer. Ilija Trojanovic asks why?

Gringos eager to latch onto anything and make a fuss about it, no, by fags I mean cigarettes.

About a week ago, avid —and very annoying —Arsenal supporter, talk show host, and self-proclaimed football analyst Piers Morgan tweeted “I guarantee @JackWilshere will have a smoking season this year – and I’m not talking about cigarettes. #Afc”after the Arsenal midfielder was caught smoking in the wake of England’s routinely premature World Cup exit.

Wilshere Smoking

The buzz sparked off after Wilshere was spotted in a pool smoking a cigarette. Surrounded by chums and even some England teammates, the short elfish-looking footballer was puffing on a fag. Big deal. If this is the attitude that people are going to have about smoking, then it is understandable as to why they should look into companies that allow them to compare life insurance. Might as well find the best deals on the market if smoking is what they want to continue with. Although, Young Jack could have been a little more health conscious, by using a vape instead. Maybe if he looked into a site like Gourmet eLiquid, he wouldn’t have any of this backlash. He may as well have slipped in a bit of cannabis concentrate. It might have mellowed the constantly injured footballer out. They do say CBD is good for injuries… I’d have thought a player that has spent half his time in the Doctors office (the other half trying to mask that dubious hairline) would have tried this before. Maybe give the vape 510 battery a go. If Wenger says yes of course. So Mr Wilshere, if you want to avoid spending the next 4 seasons sat on the sidelines before washing up at a mid-table team like West Ham then you know what to do.

What upset most Arsenal fans on Twitter and beyond was, in fact, another shot of the England midfielder. The picture saw Manchester City goalkeeper and England teammate Joe Hart standing outside the pool pouring what seems to be alcohol into Wilshere’s mouth like an opportunist male college student doing the same move to a female student at a University of Miami pool party.

Still that isn’t the controversial picture that displeased Arsenal fans like myself. It seems to be alcohol being poured because the third photograph catches Hart planting a nice old kiss on Wilshere where he has a forceful hold of the Arsenal player, somewhat a microcosm of Manchester City’s hold on Arsenal in the past few years; taking their players and delivering them embarrassing defeats, one of which a 6-3 drubbing. How could you, Jack?

How could you let him intoxicate you and kiss you? It has nothing to do with smoking. Even strict coach Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger admitted he’s “not deeply concerned…[and] will speak to Jack.”

The fact is, as long as you can play at the top of your game, you’re entitled do whatever you want. Players such as French World Cup winners Zinedine Zidane and Fabien Barthez, four time Ballon D’or winner Lionel Messi, and England star Wayne Rooney have all been caught smoking. Some players like Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov are just sangfroid smokers: they look ridiculously cool while smoking a cigarette.

Being caught smoking by the irritating paparazzi is one thing, admitting to being an all out smoker is something else.

Ex-Croatia international, Robert Prosinecki, one of the handful of greats to play for both Real Madrid and Barcelona reportedly smoked more than “40 ciggies a day”. Socrates, the former Brazil man who studied medicine while playing football, was a “two-pack-a-day man”. Michel Platini, the Frenchman who won three consecutive Ballon D’ors before Lionel Messi repeated the feat, used to smoke at halftime while playing for Juventus. In a class of their own, these three footballers were a few of many chain-smoking footballers, but they never let their teams down and their performances were always of the highest calibre.

This commentary is by no means an advertisement for smoking. It’s proven to be unhealthy, and it can even cost you your life, but people still do it. Even though they are highly-paid athletes and they aren’t ‘supposed’ to smoke, footballers are people too, and they still do it. As far as I know politicians aren’t supposed to cheat and lie to the masses, but they still do…and to me at least, that’s worse than a footballer smoking a cigarette.

They have pre-season, the regular season, and a short lived off-season and those are the three trimesters of their annual work year. In that year they train almost every day of the week, twice, morning and noon, have one or more matches a week, and need to deal with not only the thousands of fans cheering and jeering them, but also with the media who can make or break their careers. After games they sit in ice baths or get drug-tested, and sometimes even get doped by their own clubs without knowing it. Keep in mind, footballers can play in more than one tournament (i.e. their own league, champion’s league, domestic cup tournaments, etc.) and can be selected for their national squad, which means even more training and matches. Oh, they also can’t eat whatever they want. The standard 9-to-5 might suck, but if you’re a professional footballer, you might just hate your work schedule as well. They sure as hell can’t take cig breaks in between cardio training and ball training, they land up taking one with the lads at a pool party? So what.

Sure, most people would love to be athletes playing the greatest sport on this planet, but it doesn’t come easy. You need to start early and sacrifice many important things in life like family and education. I’m no advocate for the salaries footballers receive these days, which is a completely different issue, but if their occasional fag cuts down the stress and they can still make it to match-day and give Manchester United (or whoever…but preferably Man United) a good beating, then go and do just that.

As Arsenal made their first pre-season trip to the United States, Jack has gone on the record and apologized for the smoking pictures…But for God’s sake Jack, get kissed the way Lukas Podolski was given a smooch by Bastian Schweinsteiger after they won the World Cup, not by Joe Hart after failing to do just that…in a pool.


Ilija Trojanovic

Ilija Trojanovic

Ilija Trojanovic is a former staff reporter for the Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon and currently freelances on several topics ranging from politics, history, and football. For OOTB, he usually combines all three subjects into one. He has also written for: The Daily Star, The Herald (Zimbabwe), World Soccer Talk, The Indypendent, openDemocracy,CounterPunch, Rapid Soccer, Inside Out Borders, and one of his articles -- How, and why, a country sold their spot at the World Cup -- for OOTB was included in A Football Report's top articles of 2015 in the Storytelling section. He can be reached at ilija.trojanovic@gmail.com.
Ilija Trojanovic

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