Hoddle gives Gazza all clear to light up the World Cup

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PAUL GASCOIGNE, the footballer whose health and fitness have been a constant source of concern for England managers, was last night given permission to smoke his way through this summer's World Cup.

Until yesterday, Gascoigne's habit, now believed to be up to 20-a-day, had not attracted the attention of those other vices which earned him notoriety in the past such as wife-beating and excessive drinking.

Yesterday, however, Glenn Hoddle, the England coach, confirmed Gascoigne's nicotine habit. He said it was a private matter and that making Gascoigne give up for the tournament might have an adverse effect.

The response brought an angry reaction from anti- smoking groups. Smoking may help Gascoigne's battle to keep his weight down but few habits could be as harmful to his long-term fitness.

Gascoigne has long been indulged as a special talent but Hoddle suggested he may be losing patience when he said this week: "He is not out of the woods yet."

Clive Bates, the group director of the anti-smoking organisation Ash, criticised Gascoigne. "Gascoigne has basically given the green light to kids who'll say `If Gazza smokes, it's all right for me.'"

Gascoigne is following a long tradition of outstanding footballers who smoked, most of them in the days before the extent of its dangers was known. Of England's 1966 World Cup-winners, Bobby Moore, Jack and Bobby Charlton and Nobby Stiles all liked a puff, while Ray Wilson smoked a pipe.

Smokers' XI: Felix (Brazil), Moore (England), J Charlton (England), Wilson (England), R Charlton (England), Socrates (Brazil), Ardiles (Argentina), Gerson (Brazil), Cruyff (Holland), Law (Scotland), Ginola (France).