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Euro 2020: Heineken beer will no longer be placed in front of Muslim players

Muslim players will no longer be required to display bottles of alcohol-associated brands during news conferences, following Paul Pogba's snub
France midfielder Pogba, a practising Muslim, removed the bottle after being named man of the match in France's win over Germany in Munich [AFP]

Euro 2020 organisers will not require Muslim football players to display bottles of alcohol-free beer in front of them during news conferences, The Telegraph Sport has reported.

The decision comes after France international and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, a Muslim, removed a bottle of Heineken 0.0 beer from a collection of drinks placed in front of the microphone by sponsors. 

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Officials at the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) are now asking teams whether players and managers appearing at press conferences would object to sitting next to alcoholic brand names on religious grounds, Telegraph Sport reported.

The change was noticed when team-mate Karim Benzema, who is also a Muslim, appeared at a later news conference at which the Heineken sponsor's product was not in sight. 

Heineken objected to the decision, saying its 0.0 product has no alcohol in it, and should not be an issue with those who abstain. 

"Far from promoting the consumption of alcohol, Heineken 0.0 is helping consumers decrease their alcohol intake, allowing them to substitute for great tasting alcohol-free beer when it suits them, giving our consumers greater choice," Heineken said of Pogba's protest. 

Ronaldo's snub at Coke

It was unclear if UEFA was considering the same allowances for players objecting to certain sponsors on principle, with Pogba appearing inspired by Portugal's captain Cristiano Ronaldo's removal of two bottles of Coca-Cola from the display in front of him last week.

"Agua [water]," Ronaldo said as he removed the sugary drinks and raised a bottle of water. 

Coke is among the world's biggest sponsors of football events, but Ronaldo's snub immediately wiped an estimated $3.8bn (£2.8bn) off the company's value. The drinks company's share price rebounded to previous levels soon after. 

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Following Ronaldo's protest, UEFA warned teams that it would begin handing out fines if players continued to move drinks provided by its sponsors during news conferences - but that was before objections on religious grounds were made. 

Harry Kane, captain of the England national team and a brand ambassador for Coca-Cola, said he opposed the removal of sponsors' products. 

"From my point of view, the sponsors are entitled to have what they want if they have paid the money to do so," Kane said at a news conference last week. "It's not something I have thought about too much, I am more focused on tomorrow."

England manager Gareth Southgate agreed, while noting the difference between the positions of Ronaldo and Pogba. 

"There are lots of sponsors in sport and the impact of their money at all levels helps sport to function; particularly grassroots sport in our country requires a lot of investment and, without these companies investing, it's very difficult to have the facilities we need," said Southgate, who has also promoted the English Football Association's community work backed by hamburger giant McDonald's.

"We are mindful of obesity and health but everything can be done in moderation. Anything partaken of in moderation is rarely a problem. I understand the concerns people have and the two guys [Ronaldo and Pogba] have different rationale for their stances they took. But there's always a bigger picture." 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.