Alex Massie

Capello’s Common Sense

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More evidence emerges that England selected the right man when they asked Fabio Capello to rescue their football team. From the Times today:

On another issue - Wayne Rooney's smoking habit - Capello was curiously indifferent, a stance that brought out sweat beads on the foreheads of his FA employers, fearful of their manager unwittingly being cast as the spokesman for a generation of English butt-heads. Capello later returned to clarify his position and the moral guardians were headed off at the pass...

Capello's lack of interest in making a judgment revealed that the difference between football people in Europe and Britain is not merely a matter of tactics or technique.

The fact is, smoking is not seen as the great taboo for a sportsman abroad that it is here. Johan Cruyff smoked heavily, so did Socrates, of Brazil, and Slaven Bilic, the Croatia coach, has been known to spark one up on the touchline. Last year, Bilic admitted being amused during his days with West Ham United and Everton that English players would react in horror when he lit up during social gatherings. “Then they would drink so much that they could not stand up,” he said. “Where I came from, no player would do that, but I know quite a few that liked a cigarette.”

So did Capello's team-mates during his playing days. “Many of my friends among the players smoked,” the Italian revealed. “It's a part of life and, with Rooney, a part of his private life, too."

Hurrah for Capello's common sense and how typical that the FA should make the manager return to make it clear that he did not "endorse" smoking. But what event was he speaking at anyway? Why, a Football Festival sponsored by, yes, McDonald's...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSocietyfootballsmoking