Drink Tank

One scene that says it all about alcohol and sports

In the unholy alliance between alcohol and sport, not all professional athletes are willing participants.

While they may not be happy about lending their personal endorsement to the alcohol products emblazoned on their team jerseys and stadiums, the money they earn may well help overcome their objections.

There are of course, high profile exceptions.

In recent years, Australian cricketers Fawad Ahmed and Usman Khawaja were both granted permission to play without wearing the logo of Cricket Australia’s major sponsor Victoria Bitter (VB) on religious grounds.

Today on Drink Tank, Maik Dünnbier tells the story of a beer bottle, an awkward press conference and a disgruntled Albanian-German professional football player. Maik reflects that alcohol in sport is unbearable – for many fans and spectators and for many athletes themselves.


Everyone knows them, for everyone has experienced them: those precious moments of clarity, where no words are needed, because the situation itself says everything.

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“I do not want this bottle of beer in front of me” (“Yo no quiero la birra”)

Shkodran Mustafi is an Albanian-German professional football player, who won the World Cup with the German national team in 2014 and who currently plays for Valencia club de futbol. Mustafi was born in Bad Hersfeld, Germany to an Albanian family, originally from Gostivar, Macedonia.

He is clearly uncomfortable with the bottle of beer right in front of him, as he sits down for a press conference. The scene that unfolds couldn’t make it clearer: alcohol marketing is out of place in sports in general, and in professional football in particular. It puts many players in difficult positions. It glamorises a harmful product. It entices children and youth to use alcohol.

And we can all read these facts from the expression on Mustafi’s face.

Three more problems are brought to the surface by this short scene:

  1. Alcohol marketing is so pervasive in today’s hyper-monetised professional sports, that even if the bottle had been removed, there would still be all the logos around.
  2. Alcohol marketing is so aggressive that it doesn’t pay any aspect to people’s lifestyle choices, religious convictions or family backgrounds.
  3. The alcohol norm has pro football in such a tight grip that it contradicts football’s own messages.
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Once Fifa made this film with one of the world’s best players. Cristiano Ronaldo advices kids: avoid alcohol. [Abstinence is] healthy and it’s good for your performance. The problem with this is: the football clubs, the football leagues, the football governing bodies all contradict this important message – as Shkodran Mustafi has painfully pointed out.

But Mustafi and Ronaldo are not the only ones who diverge from the alcohol norm and allow us to see just how entranced alcohol marketing has become:

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If one thing becomes painfully clear: alcohol marketing in sports is unbearable – for many fans and spectators and for many athletes themselves, too.

Alcohol marketing in sports causes situations where personal choices, religious convictions, and intimate feelings are getting hurt. The players whose family members suffer(ed) from alcohol use disorder? The children whose parents abuse alcohol? The players who follow a religious belief? The fans who follow a religious belief? The people who just don’t want to use alcohol because they want to lead healthy lives?

They are all ignored and their needs and believes are all rejected because of alcohol marketing. Never before has one scene told this story so compellingly.

This post originally appeared on IOGT International’s blog on 9 November 2015.

Maik Dunnbier

Maik Dunnbier

Maik is a Policy and Communications Officer for IOGT International and writes a blog on his life with IOGT. He is also a student at Stockholm University, studying Political Science, Philosophy and History of Ideas.

3 comments

  • What a champion, his face really does say it all! Looks like it made the news over there too. I know the players have various pressures on them from teams, associations and sponors, but if they can feel empowered to stand up to unhealthy or inappropriate sponsorship, it could really make an important difference.

  • Good story.

    A great contrast to Aussie attitudes. I wonder what would happen if a top line Australian Cricketer refused to carry alcohol sponsorship for similar reasons. I do note that according to the article two players have been exempted on religious grounds.

    I do not take any interest in basketball but the irony of the recent spectator pouring beer on the head of one of the Sydney Kings’ players is a sad reflection on the attitudes of some sports fans. To their credit, as far as I can see, neither the Sydney Kings of the NBL appear to have major sponsorship from alcohol brands. Yet they are news because of the actions of one of their fans.

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