A topic prompted by a discussion with fellow Fulham F.C. blogger Rich who writes the very excellent Craven Cottage Newsround. I was surprised at some of the names that popped up when I started to investigate this and, whilst a lifetime non-smoker myself, feel the players that made my eventual list would make a pretty decent five-a-side team.
1. Socrates - Brazil's bearded midfielder and one time captain made a fairly big impression on me as a teenager watching the '82 World Cup. An elegant midfielder, who had great vision and was genuinely two-footed, he didn't make his international debut until he was 25 but still managed 60 caps and 22 goals for his country. He has a doctorate in medicine and worked on a masters thesis that proposed football be reduced to nine-a-side in a bid to increase skill levels. He also managed to turn out for Northern Counties League side Garforth Town at 50 back in 2004. This quote from the BBC seems to sum him up fairly well "The chain-smoking former Brazil captain, a member of the Workers' Party and founder member of the movement Corinthians Democracy, became a leading figure in the push for political reforms in his home nation and is widely regarded as one of the most influential civilians to challenge, and ultimately end, the country's dictatorship".
2. Zinedine Zidane - Undoubtedly one of the greatest footballers of the last ten years, as with so many greatly talented footballers "Zizou" was a bit of an enigma. I took a while to really appreciate how good he was, with my glimpses limited pretty much to World Cups and occasional European games. My admiration for him rose somewhat when he was shown briefly vomiting prior to dispatching a penalty against England in the Euro 2004 group match. In 2002 he was selected to front a campaign against smoking, which probably went some way to explaining the outrage caused when a press photographer captured him having a crafty fag before the 2006 World Cup semi-final against Portugal.
3. Dino Zoff - One of the all time great goalkeeper's smoking didn't seem to affect the length of his career. Dino played at four World Cups and was 40 when he captained the Italian side that won the competition in 1982. Our own David James recently outed himself as a smoker and is currently staking a fairly good claim to be England's number one 'keeper at a very similar age.
4. Osvaldo Ardiles - When Ossie and Ricky Villa arrived at Tottenham following their countries triumph at the '78 World Cup they caused a huge stir. At the time there were very few foreign players in the English league and it was very exciting to see two World Cup winners turning out regularly. Glenn Hoddle, then England manager, defended Paul Gasgoigne (who was also famously unmasked as smoker just prior to the World Cup in 1998) saying "Paul's been smoking since he was in Rome with Lazio, six or seven years. If I tried to stop him for three weeks now, it might have an adverse effect. Ossie Ardiles was on 40-a-day when he won the World Cup with Argentina. It didn't bother Ossie and it doesn't bother me".
5. Sylvain Legwinski - Well I couldn't compile a Top 5 without including a Fulham player. Legwinski arrived during the Tigana era that was synonymous with fitness, good eating and professional athletes. Tigana had managed Legwinski at AS Monaco previously so clearly had no concerns about his habit. Leggy was something of a cult hero amongst Fulham supporters. His passion and work rate made him one of the hardest working players in the side and helped enable the flair players in the side to work their magic. He eventually fell out of favour with subsequent manager Chris Coleman, and there were suggestions that his smoking was at the root of this, however Sylvain eventually moved on to Ipswich Town where he won the Supporter's and Manager's Player of the Year Award for the 2006/07 and became the only Ipswich player to have scored in all the games against East Anglian opposition (Norwich City, Colchester United and Southend United) during one season.