Cigarettes, carbonated drinks, and footballers

The evolution of football is not just confined to the adaptation of technology in the ball or in a player’s boots.

The transformation of football is also evident in the way people viewed the sport and its athletes.

Twentytwo13 editor Haresh Deol, in his latest column in Malay-language news website Getaran, had highlighted two incidents that took place in the on-going Euro 2020 Championship. One was Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, pictured smoking hours before his team played Spain, while the other, was of Cristiano Ronaldo moving two carbonated drinks away from him, before saying “Agua!” (water) while holding a bottle of mineral water, during a press conference.

Even local star Safee Sali received a stern warning from the FA of Malaysia after he was pictured smoking in Singapore during the 2014 AFF Cup.

“But there was a time when footballers, who were pictured smoking, were treated like rock stars. Legendary Dutch footballer Johan Cruyff was often pictured while smoking – either in the dressing room or at the sidelines during his time as a manager,” wrote Haresh.

“The defenders would say these players smoked and even drank alcohol, but they could still play well. The same cannot be said today, for the athletes will be badly criticised.”

Haresh pointed out that while certain quarters hailed Ronaldo for his action, others had labelled the Portuguese star a hypocrite as he was involved in a Coca-Cola and KFC commercial in the past.

“If Ronaldo did the same (moved the carbonated drinks) five decades ago, he would have been heavily criticised, and may even be thrown out of the team or tournament.

“What was ‘normal’ in the past is no longer the same today. We learn from the past to move forward, but not use what was practiced in the past as a template for today.”

Haresh summarised by saying that the world had changed, and so has football. As such, the mindset must also change.

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