It looks like Chelsea FC is a lot like high school, the worst thing you can do is get caught smoking.
The Daily Mail has published (/snitched to the teacher) pictures of Ashley Cole smoking a cigarette in Los Angeles and the paper reckons his new (/old) manager Jose Mourinho won’t be happy.
The paper claims that a source close to Cole has told them:
"Ashley always smokes heavily during his annual summer holiday in LA. Even some of his friends have told him it is stupid. He has been spotted smoking before, but Mourinho wasn’t his boss then. He is known for expecting the best standards from his players and will not be impressed."
When you keep in mind Ashley Cole is a man who has, in the past, shot a student, allegedly had extra-marital affairs and taken to Twitter to call his country’s Football Association, which has capped him 100 times, a sexual swear word. You’d think his smoking habit is the last thing Mourinho wants to make sure Ash doesn’t repeat.
It is hard to believe that a professional athlete can take up a habit that is so damaging to one's health (smoking that is, not shooting students–that’s more damaging to the health of students) but Ashley isn’t the only one.
Some of the beautiful game’s other biggest stars have been caught taking up the ugly habit (smoking, not shooting students, that's just Cole).
The reason why everyone thinks Jose Mourinho will react worse to Ashley Cole smoking than Iker Casillas would react to a transfer bid from Chelsea, is that in April 2012 he dropped full back Fabio Coentrao for one game after he was spotted having a cigarette outside a restaurant on his birthday.
Coentrao said of the incident that “it was an occasional thing”, adding:
"I am very disappointed with what has been written in the press because no one can say anything bad about me. I am an excellent professional, I have always given everything for the clubs I have represented and it is not fair to put everything in doubt because of one isolated act. Besides, it was reported that I had made a lot of noise in my house on that night and that is a complete lie.”
We would sympathize with Coentrao if he got dropped for having a noisy house.
However, in 1991, Cruyff underwent double heart bypass surgery after the cigarettes and stress caught up with him. Cruyff then gave up smoking, saying:
“Football has given me everything in this life; tobacco almost took it all away.”
To help give up, Cruyff sucked on Chupa Chups lollipops to replace the smokes and went on to oversee the Catalan giants winning four La Ligas in a row and a European Cup.
Take note, Ashley Cole. We’re sure Jose couldn’t care less if you were spotted out in LA sucking a lolly.
We just want to make clear that we want to discourage you from smoking. It’s bad for you. We’re worried you might see players of the quality of Cruyff and Zinedine Zidane lighting up and you’ll think “I want a piece of that action.”
Before France’s 2006 World Cup semi final with Portugal, Zizou was spotted lighting up.
Unfortunately, this contradicted the 2002 anti-smoking campaign that Zidane had fronted.
AC Milan and Italy’s Mario Balotelli have had a few Balotelli-esque incidents around smoking.
...So Balotelli left Manchester City.
La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that a senior train guard told Milan’s Vice President, Adriano Galliani:
“Maybe you have to pull Balotelli’s ears, because he was smoking in the toilet.”
Perhaps Mourinho will take the train guard and disciplinarian's advice and just pull Ashley Cole’s ears?
The late Brazilian genius, Socrates, smoked two packets of cigarettes a day during his playing career.
This was despite him studying medicine at the time and going on to become a qualified doctor.
Some even believe that the reason the World Cup winner only spent one year at Fiorentina was because he couldn’t settle due to it being less accepted for athletes to smoke in Italy than it was in Brazil.
Even in train toilets.
It’s fair to say, France’s 1998 World Cup winning goalkeeper, Fabien Barthez, is a little eccentric.
One of his eccentricities was his love of smoking, despite being a top level footballer.
So when Barthez joined Manchester United, managed by Sir Alex Ferguson a known disciplinarian (but he never pulled anyone's ear), you would have bet that Sir Alex was going to have none of Fab’s cigarette habit, right?
Well that is a bet you would have lost.
According to The Guardian, Ferguson said in 2001 of Barthez’s smoking:
“I know Fabien smokes. I was even aware of that before he joined us. He must think I don't know about it, but he is mistaken. He is the third United player to be hooked on cigarettes since I have been at the club. Before him, there were Jesper Olsen and goalkeeper Les Sealey.
In England, it's a rare thing to see a player smoking but, all in all, I prefer that to an alcoholic.”
In short, Fergie was saying:
a) at least he isn’t a drinker
b) when you’re replacing Mark Bosnich and Massimo Taibi, beggars can’t be choosers
Imagine how good he would have been if he had only smoked 20 a day.
England and (for now) Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney caused a British tabloid media hatestorm when he was spotted on a night out in Manchester city center in August 2010 “Lighting up a cigarette, urinating against a wall and singing raucously” according to The Daily Mail.
And in May 2011 The Sun printed pictures of Wayne and Coleen Rooney on their honeymoon with Wayne smoking in the pool.
We don’t smoke, so we’re not sure, but surely there can’t be many harder places to light a cigarette than a pool of water.
The Sun reckoned that his then-manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, was “fuming” over Rooney’s cigarette antics.
One rule for Wayne, one rule for Barthez. No wonder he handed in a transfer request.
So seeing pictures of Fulham’s Bulgarian striker, Dimitar Berbatov, puffing on a cigarette means he has been caught smoking, right?
Well, so he says.
When asked by The Independent if he was a smoker, he replied:
“No, sometimes when you see a picture I just pretend to smoke to make me more of a cool guy."
There’s your excuse, Ashley. Tell Jose you were just pretending to try and look like a cool guy.
OK. We think the late Sir Stanley Matthews might have wanted to get caught.
Here is a 1952 advert from Britain’s Science Museum for Craven cigarettes featuring Sir Stan, who is the only footballer to have been knighted while still playing and the first English European Footballer Of The Year.
In hindsight, the claims that Craven A cigarettes are “kind to your throat” and “Stan takes his training very seriously and soon discovered the cigarette which suited him best” might have been based on evidence that has since been scientifically disproven.
Matthews went on to play football until the age of 50.
And he didn't shoot a single student.