It is common knowledge that, generally, professional athletes don’t smoke and if they did, they wouldn’t be professional athletes in the first place. Well, at least that’s what we’ve been taught and told. In this day and age, with the media being present everywhere, if a professional athlete, especially a Footballer, felt like puffing down a stick, you can be sure that it would make the headlines everywhere. Blowing the image out of proportion as some sort of inhumane crime would probably be how it gets publicized. Football clubs nowadays have got the most up-to-date medical equipment at their disposal that even the slightest amount of tobacco, or any other substance, that a footballer enjoys off the field would be noticed and he could possibly be punished for it. The players representatives (club, manager…etc) would probably take some sort of minimal action against the player, but it wouldn’t necessarily go public. But do Footballers really restrain themselves from having the odd puff? And if they did smoke, how badly would it harm their performances and reputations?
In the early days of the game, in the 1800s, it was almost normal or mandatory for footballers to be smokers. Goalkeepers were often seen smoking cigarettes while playing, and players would often take some puffs before, during, or after a game. Sometimes the club would even provide the cigarettes for the players. To think of that in our time is unimaginable. Decades past, and cigarette-smoking footballers reduced in large numbers. With Football clubs having so much at stake now, especially financially, the players have always got to be at their best behavior on and off the pitch. Any tiny mistake could hinder a club’s reputation and a player’s future. Media scrutiny is at its highest now, and with that comes an added amount of pressure of the players. Their private lives are being monitored in a way that George Orwell would be proud of. When they have sex, when they go out, what they eat, what they drink, what they say…all these aspects, and more, are all being monitored by their rightful Football clubs. Their liberties are reduced in return for the bags of cash they get. So you can’t blame the players for stepping out of line once in a while.
Some of the world greatest footballers have publicly stated that during their careers, they were smokers. Johan Cruyff, Socrates, David Ginola, Jack Charlton, Bobby Charlon, Stanley Matthews, Zinedine Zidane and Paul Gascoigne, are just a few legendary Football names from the past that have been associated with smoking. Despite that, it has always been and will always be frowned upon in the Football world. But some of the names in today’s game that have been caught smoking are surprising (click here). Any one of us who plays football knows the damage that smoking does to our endurance, and it makes you wonder about how some professional players are able to perform and smoke. Dimitar Berbatov (pictured above) supposedly smokes regularly, and when one sees how lazy and languid he looks on the pitch sometimes, you can understand the effect it has. Very rarely have we seen him sprinting or doing a lot of running (even though, despite smoking, he could probably run 100 times more than any normal person); but if we imagine he didn't smoke and had the burst of pace to run at defenders, he would be an even better player than he is - sometimes the smoking does affect the performances. Whereas on the other hand, someone like Zinedine Zidane, also famed for his smoking habits, barely had to break into sweat during his entire career and yet is still rightly recognized as one of the greatest footballers of all-time. One could say he was so gifted that he never needed to. I would go as far as saying he could probably have had a cigarette in his mouth while playing and he would still outshine those around him. These are two contradicting examples that emphasize the question surrounding this topic: does smoking affect their performances?
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t support Footballers smoking, because I believe any individual earning the ridiculous sums of money that they are earning could abstain himself from life’s “evil pleasures” for 10-15 years while they’re professionals. But I also understand the fact that these players are human beings and are just like any regular guys out there except with the extra load of pressure on their shoulders; we sometimes forget that these rich, lucky, unintelligent, talented footballers are just like any regular Joe – and for that, they could be forgiven for smoking, or stepping out of line, every once in a while as long as it doesn’t affect their performances on the field – which is the most important aspect as its their job. They obviously don't restrain themselves from doing things that any normal individual would do, and they certainly don't seem to mind what it does to their reputations as long as they're doing their job on the pitch; and rightly so.