Great Gençlerbirligi smoke-out | Stadium regulars worry about going cold turkey

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Smoke if you got 'em. Link to The Round Ball in Ankara posting.Ankara, Turkey | Few recent news items have reminded us of late Beat poet and Bob Dylan confidant Allen Ginsberg‘s live performance of “Put Down Your Cigarette Rag (Don’t Smoke)” at the Duke University Gross Chemistry building sometime in 1979. But postings in the soccer “blogosphere”—specifically, at “The Round Ball in Ankara”—concerning new anti-smoking initiatives under consideration by Turkish parliament triggered a memory of Ginsberg trilling lyrics accompanied by his hurdy-gurdy.

You pay your two bucks for a deathly pack
Trust your bad luck and smoke in the sack.

Journalist Chris Wade of “The Round Ball,” like Ginsberg, meditates on smoking’s joys and seduction and wonder whether authorities should be intruding on the practice, especially in football stadiums. Under the legislation approved by the parliament’s Justice Commission, smoking would be permissible in segregated zones: not unlike such set-asides in airports, where anxious travelers puff away the jitters before taking wing. Wade protests that the idea would seriously affect two joys of Turkish life: Tekel 2000 cigarettes and football, and especially the two together. “The highlight of the week,” Wade writes, “is when I can combine” cigarettes, football and Efes beer.

[B]ut soon I think I may have to emigrate to somewhere civilized like Tajikistan if I am to experience true happiness…. [Co-blogger and pseudonymous] Eski Kanka Jim and myself would have died from heart attacks years ago if we weren’t allowed to have a smoke after Ankaragücü or Gençlerbirligi stuffed up yet another point-blank shot on goal.

Now for the practical details. Apparently they are going to set up smoking areas in stadiums. Well, good luck to them trying to corral the vast majority of spectators into crappy seats. Talk about an invitation to riot.

The English-language Turkish Daily News reports on the culturally entrenched nature of smoking, dating to the 17th-century introduction of the hookah, or water pipes, into Ottoman coffee houses. Half of Turkey’s adults smoke, 11.7 percent of school kids. In the United States, in comparison, sales of cigarettes have hit an all-time low (378 billion in 2005). Twenty-four percent of U.S. adults are smokers.

But, as Ginsberg made clear in song, there are more than enough vices to go around.

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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