An interesting clash between religious beliefs and big-money sports and their sponsors occurred in Spain’s La Liga on Thursday.
Shkodran Mustafi, a German defender for the Spanish soccer club Valencia CF, took the stage for a midweek press conference. The player, who is described by the German publication Süddeutsche Zeitung as a devout Muslim, which forbids him from consuming or promoting alcohol, noticed a beer bottle for one of the club’s sponsors, Estrella, on the table and moved it several feet away.
A spokesperson for the soccer club then comes over, apparently to explain that the sponsor’s bottle must remain. According to the report, Mustafi can be heard saying “I do not want this bottle of beer in front of me.” However, Mustafi relented, the spokesperson moved the bottle back, and the footballer can only offer a shrug of his shoulders for the media.
It is a clash not seen in North America, as drink sponsors during press conferences are nonalcoholic (e.g. Gatorade). Teams in Europe do not express the same sensitivity, and an incident like this was probably inevitable.
This almost certainly won’t be the last time we will see this either. Eventually a player will not relent and it will be interesting to see how it is handled.