Chain-smoking Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri expressed his gratitude to RB Leipzig bosses for building a room in which he could puff away this week as his team attempted to overturn a 3-1 deficit in their Europa League tie.
Serie A leaders Napoli — dropped into the second-tier European competition after their Champions League exit — slumped to a shock home defeat in their last-32 first leg and played the away fixture in Germany on Thursday.
Sarri was relieved to hear that the Bundesliga club had built a specially adapted area and switched off smoke detectors to allow him to puff away undisturbed in the dressing room.
“We always ask for a different room for the staff, seeing as there wasn’t one. If you can smoke I’m very grateful, as well as other staff members,” Sarri told a press conference ahead of the game in the Red Bull Arena.
There is normally a strict no-smoking rule in the dressing rooms of the Red Bull Arena but an exception was made for 59-year-old Sarri, who practically chews cigarettes when under pressure.
“Sarri is a passionate smoker, that’s really incredible. I have never seen anyone who smokes so much. Thank God he has to hold back during games!” Napoli captain Marek Hamsík said recently.
Leipzig staff members decided to erect a 3m-wide and 3.5-metre-high concrete barrier in which the Tuscan coach can safely smoke.
For safety, fire alarms in the hall have also been disabled.
Ironically, RB Leipzig suspended two of its young players, Idrissa Touré and Vitaly Janelt, last year after they were caught smoking a shisha (hookah) pipe in a hotel while on duty with Germany’s under-19 national team.
Meanwhile, Sarri dismissed claims that his side were not taking the Europa League seriously, although he conceded they played “like clowns” in the first leg.
“We played like clowns; 70% of responsibility is mine, the rest the staff and players. Tomorrow [Thursday] we want the desire to take revenge,” said Sarri, who had fielded a second-string side.
Sarri conceded Napoli’s fans were more interested in winning a first Serie A title since 1990 as the home crowd stayed away in droves from the Leipzig game.
“The fans are interested in the championship now, and we will do everything to make them happy, but this should not undermine the mentality of the team.
“Last Thursday’s performance was a bolt from the blue for me as well. We have to drag the fans with the performance, but those who live in Naples know that.
“It’s obvious Leipzig are overriding favourites. We don’t play differently at home or away, but we need to make up for the first leg and have a little bit of madness to think we can qualify.” — AFP