Caught on Camera

This week 43 years ago a picture was taken of a sporting hero that, if taken today, would set the sports pages alight. Social media would be awash with comments. Questions would be asked in the House. And the health and safety brigade would burst a blood vessel.

What could cause all this furore? Jack Charlton, Leeds and England centre-half, having a crafty puff during a training session at Eland Road.

But smoking has long been associated with the game of football.

Two legends of the game, Everton’s Dixie Dean and Sir Stanley Matthews of Blackpool, both advertised cigarettes.

Football great Johan Cruyff smoked 20 cigarettes a day before heart bypass surgery caused him to quit. And the late Brazilian legend Socrates smoked frequently as a player.

But with soccer stars treated like thoroughbred athletes surely it wouldn’t happen today? Well actually it does.

One notable example is ex-Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli who was urged to quit smoking by the then City manager Roberto Mancini.

And I’m sure you could probably name players at your club who have lit up. But have they been as brazen as Jack and smoked during training? I doubt it.

By Richard Bowdery

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