Don’t smoke ’em if you got ’em | Coming ban in England stadia another blow to terrace nostalgia

Before the links between smoking and lung cancer, before the elimination, in the United States, on 1 Jan 1971 of cigarette ads on TV and radio, smoking by athletes themselves was not a shocking sight. Arsenal players puff away in the 1940 feature The Arsenal Stadium Mystery. UK poet Simon Armitage crafts verse in heroic terms of the goalkeeper who smokes in seeming defiance of mainstream images of professional fitness and discipline. “Goalkeeper with a Cigarette”—published in The Shout: Selected Poems (Harcourt, 2005)—lauds the man “who stubs his reefers on the post / and kicks his heels in the stud-marks and butts, / lighting the next from the last, in one breath / making the save of the year with his legs …” This goalkeeper of the imagination seems allied with those who take a “sideways view” of life. He has “no neat message for the nation” and lacks in histrionics, unlike captains and coaches

effing and jeffing at backs and forwards,

talking steam, screaming exhausting orders,

that’s not breath coming from my bloke, it’s smoke.

Pro-smoking group Forest, according to the Guardian‘s Simon Hattenstone, has compiled an all-smoking fantasy team, including Brazilian legend Sócrates with Paul Gascoigne on the bench (“He Shoots, He Scores, He Lights Another Fag …,” 7 Jul 06). Forest might also have included France midfield artiste and new UEFA president Michel Platini, an “enthusiastic smoker” sometimes seen puffing at Juventus training sessions at the height of his playing career. Hattenstone alludes as well to Zinédine Zidane‘s surreptitious tokes at the 2006 World Cup finals, captured via telephoto lens before the semifinal with Portugal: “Eyes closed, cheeks squeezed in tight, index finger stroking his upper lip, he seemed to be in heaven.”

Fir Park, home to Motherwell in the Scottish Premier League, includes anti-smoking messages such as the one above. The full text reads, “Keep Cigarettes Away from the Match.” Another sign, according to “Tartan Red on Tour,” asks, “Is this the closest you have got to exercise all week?” On 16 Apr 06, Tartan Red “perused these health-conscious signs as I polished off my scotch pie.” (

Such earthy pleasures likely will not be able to counteract the turns in attitude toward smoking, especially in public. France, too, has passed legislation banning smoking in schools and offices; in 2008, the ban broadens to bars, restaurants, cafés. Turkey, home to the cliché “smokes like a Turk,” in 2006 strengthened hodgepodge anti-smoking laws, causing writers at “The Round Ball in Ankara” to mourn loss of the blissful trifecta of “Efes beer, Tekel 2000 cigarettes and football” (“Civilization Going to Pot,” 5 Mar 06).

At least in the UK, stadium authorities are not playing around. Glasgow Rangers has tossed more than 100 fans since the Scotland ban came in force in Mar 06 (“Sneak Smokers Face Football Ban,” BBC News, Mar 14). Nationwide, smokers caught flaunting the law in banned areas face fines of £50 per infraction.

Tobacco’s influence has even been challenged in emerging markets such as China and India. Newscasters in China as of 1999 no longer could refer to football’s top division in that country as the Marlboro Chinese Premier League. Sponsorship was acquired by Pepsi.


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