Muslim players at the UEFA 2020 Football Championship have been given the exclusive option of removing empty bottles of non-alcoholic Heineken 0.0 bottles from their press conference desks. Meanwhile, non-Muslims players, regardless of their beliefs about alcohol or other sponsors’ products, are expected to comply mandatorily.
Fearing another violent backlash from the Islamic community, Heineken, an official tournament sponsor, and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) agreed Muslim soccer players should be granted special rights.
Many Muslims Drink Alcohol
Although alcohol is generally considered haraam (forbidden) in Islam, only the most conservative countries actually impose a legal ban. Booze is widely available in many Islamic and Arabic countries. As reported by the Guardian, “Some hadith even suggest that Muhammad (the Islamic founder and prophet) may have actually drunk mildly alcoholic beverages.”
Furthermore, Islamic countries often outdrink their Western counterparts. Kuwait and several other Muslim-majority countries top the global rankings for alcohol consumption. For instance, Egypt has a booming local alcohol industry that has been growing for years. Turkey, a country that is more than 99% Muslim, openly consumes alcohol.
The UEFA requested national soccer teams submit a list of Islamic players and coaches who wish to remove empty non-alcoholic Heineken 0.0 bottles from their desks during televised interviews. As a result, no Heineken 0.0 was placed in front of Muslim player Karim Benzema, a French national team member.
The decision came after controversial French soccer player Muslim Paul Pogba snubbed the official sponsor by removing an empty bottle of “Heineken 00” non-alcoholic beer placed in front of him at a June 16th tournament press conference.
Pogba can be seen moving the beer bottle from the table directly in front of him as he undertook media obligations following France’s opening victory over Germany:
After Pogba’s stunt, Heineken, whose annual contract with UEFA is estimated at 38 million euros, reacted by specifying that its bottles of alcohol-free beer were intended in particular “to help consumers reduce their consumption; of ‘alcohol.”
This exception, however, does not apply to Non-Muslims or those who have issues with products from other manufacturers. For example, on June 15th Cristiano Ronaldo removed a Coca-Cola bottle from his desk during a tournament press conference. The video of Ronaldo removing a full Coca-Cola bottle and encouraging people to “Drink Water” went viral on social media. The international Portuguese star justified it by saying he preferred water.
UEFA first reminded the players of their contractual duties to the sponsors. The European football governing body warned that shunning Euro 2020 commercial partners could result in fines for players’ respective national federations. However, the UEFA quickly changed its policy when Muslims became offended. The UEFA and the Heineken granted the Islamic players special rights.
While Ronaldo’s gesture was praised by many, it was the catalyst that prompted UEFA to warn players that they could face fines for such actions.
The European soccer body stressed that removing alcohol on religious grounds was different than snubbing a beverage based on lifestyle choices. However, the beverage in question was empty and non-alcoholic. Furthermore, the Muslim player was not being asked to drink the non-alcoholic beer, verbally endorse it or mention the product in any way. Not to mention that religion in a free nation is, in fact, a lifestyle choice.
UEFA’s decision abounds with troubling inconsistencies and contractions. Among those are the following:
- Coca-Cola, like Heineken, also manufacturers alcoholic products. Heineken 0.0 and Coca-Cola both have zero alcohol. However, having the non-alcoholic Heineken on the table is problematic for Muslims, but not the non-alcoholic Coca-Cola?
- Is the UEFA going to provide similar Muslim exceptions for all companies carrying alcohol? For example, Qatari Airlines (owned by the Islamic Qatar government) serves highly profitable alcohol on its flights.
- Is the UEFA going to provide similar exceptions for Mormons and Buddhists who also have religious objections to not having any alcohol or caffeinated products such as Coca-Cola?
- Is the UEFA going to provide similar exceptions for Seventh Day Adventists who have a religious obligation not to have caffeinated products such as Coca-Cola?
- Will Jewish players be provided exceptions for non-Kosher sponsors?
- Will Jewish players be allowed exception from the support of EUFA sponsor Qatari Airlines given Qatar’s long history of antisemitism?
- Will gay players be allowed exception from the support of EUFA sponsor Qatari Airlines given Qatar’s anti-homosexual stance?
If the UEFA did not change its policies and grant Islamic players special privileges, it is most likely violence would ensue. As reported previously by RAIR Foundation USA, Muslims have put businesses, teachers, children, leaders, cartoonists, and the rest of the free world on notice: if you insult Muhammad, Islam, their holy books, or even fail to consider Islamic law (Sharia) in all things, they will harm you. Television host Bill Maher seems correct when he famously compared Islam to the Mafia during a debate on HBO, “Islam is the only religion that acts like the mafia, that will f*cking kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book”: