Jack Wilshere and the History of Smoking in Soccer

What happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas for Arsenal star Jack Wilshere as he was recently caught smoking a cigarette while partying poolside. He duly apologized, saying “Of course I regret it…I have kids myself and I don’t want them growing up to think their dad smokes and it’s ok for a footballer to smoke because it’s not.”

Some may wonder how a player capable of regularly running more than 7 miles in a match could afford to smoke but such is the power and ignorance of youth. In my college days, I used to stupidly look forward to a good smoke after playing basketball as the running would open up my lungs.

Hopefully Wilshere’s learned his lesson but such is the fallibility of youth that it certainly won’t be the last time a famous footballer is captured puffing away in a haze of invincibility.

In a more ignorant age stars like Stanley Matthews could appear in an advertisement happily endorsing a cigarette that suits his vigorous training best. England and Everton legend Dixie Dean went so far as to advise youngsters on which brand is best to compliment their game. Going back further, the first football trading cards were sponsored by cigarette companies.

It’s understandable that athletes would want to let loose after the repression and rigors of in-season training. As the above image shows, many superstars across the ages have indulged in a smoke. But if any player needs a reminder of smoking’s danger then they just need to look up at Newcastle United’s main stand. It’s named for Toon Titan Jackie Milburn, who passed before his time due to lung cancer.


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