Euro 2020 and events off the pitch

Euro 2020 has got off to an explosive start with events off the pitch grabbing all the headlines. This tournament will probably be remembered for Ronaldo’s part in wiping US$4billion off Coca-cola’s share value with a five-second move at a press conference. In this piece, I look at three ‘off the pitch’ events that have generated much discussion on social media.

England’s taking the knee

Before the tournament, England’s manager, Gareth Southgate and the players decided that they would take the knee before each match in solidarity with the ‘black lives matter’ movement. This was met with boos from some English fans who have associated the gesture of taking the knee with Marxism and a movement that wants to defund the police.

This is not true.

Gareth Southgate has been absolutely marvellous in sticking with the decision to take the knee. His open letter titled ‘Dear England‘ will go down in history as a key moment in the struggle against racism in England. Although the Home Secretary, Priti Patel gave her backing to the boo boys, England players have quite rightly stood firm and clarified that the gesture has nothing to do with Marxism or wanting to get rid of the police. It is simply about making a stand against racism. It did not start in 2015 as has been suggested. Dr Martin Luther King also took the knee during his fight against racism in the US.

Ronaldo’s stand against Coca-cola

At a press conference, Ronaldo moved two bottles of Coca-cola that were in front of him and held up a bottle of water declaring, “drink water”. Ronaldo is well known for his healthy lifestyle. Coca-cola has absolutely no nutritional value. It is a sugary drink that is bad for health. Ronaldo has hundreds of millions of followers on social media. He is a global icon. His one five-second action was enough to wipe US$4 billion off Coca-cola’s share value.

Ronaldo’s action was not pre-planned. He simply acted instinctively. It does, however raise a serious question about product placement and sponsorship of sporting tournaments by companies that pose health risks such as obesity, diabetes and so on. Advertising of cigarettes at sporting events has been banned for quite sometime. There is clearly a precedent. It is high time that the likes of UEFA, FIFA and the English FA have a rethink about which companies should be allowed to sponsor football tournaments. Afterall, companies such as Coca-cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s and Burger King sell products that are a complete antithesis of an active lifestyle that sports promote.

Paul Pogba’s removal of a beer bottle

After Ronaldo, it was the turn of another global footballing icon, Paul Pogba to remove a beer bottle that was placed in front of him. The two events are not linked. Pogba was giving a press conference after his man of the match performance for France against Germany. He removed a bottle of Heineken that was in front him and placed it under the table.

Paul Pogba is a practising Muslim and it is against his religion to drink alcohol. No doubt he felt uncomfortable with a beer bottle in front of him which led to his instinctive action. He faced a backlash from racists on social media. That is beside the point. Surely, sporting bodies should also be looking at sponsorship by alcohol and betting companies that can be very damaging to an individual. Sports should be about promoting a healthy and positive lifestyle. There are enough companies around the world whose values align with sports without the need for kowtowing to fast food, fizzy drinks, gambling and alcohol.

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