I saw a young Muslim boy earlier this week dressed top to toe in a Liverpool kit. It got me thinking of something.
When I was a kid, I remember how much I wanted a football shirt, more specifically, a Newcastle United top. Bear in mind this was in 1995/96 or so, height of the entertainers era and the almost-glory days.
There was one thing stopping me however. It wasn’t money (even though I was only 11/12 at the time).
You may find it a bit weird.
But it was the fact there was the big Newcastle Brown Ale sponsor right slap bang in the centre of it. That was a huge no-no — and I probably would have never been allowed to wear it, such is the taboo around alcohol in Islam. Many of the teams back then had alcohol companies as sponsors — certainly the likes of Liverpool with Carlsberg and even my local team, Nottingham Forest. I remember looking enviously at my cousins, all avid Man U fans, happy as Larry with their Sharp emblazoned red football kits. Hmph, lucky gits.
I remember, one of my mates, a Liverpool supporter ended up buying a Tottenham kit — only because they were one of the ones it was safe for him to get (they were sponsored by Hewlett Packard). Although they were rubbish at the time, at least they weren’t a rival (Man U) or promoting alcohol, God forbid.
Simpler times I guess, through the mind of a youngster.
In the time that passed, Newcastle Brown Ale was replaced on the shirt initially by NTL and then by a whole load of financial institutions — Northern Rock, Virgin Money, Wonga and now some random Chinese betting company.
Yay, safe at last you may be thinking. Now I can build my collection. So, how many “Shearer 9” shirts must I own today?
As it happens, only one. An away shirt from the NTL era.
Why? Not because Newcastle were rubbish (they weren’t always, honest!). But because the financial institutions are as unacceptable to promote as the alcohol companies — if not worse! Certainly in terms of their impact on society.
Unfortunately, we don’t quite think of it like that. It doesn’t quite have that same taboo. As Muslims, we are extremely clear on the position on pork and alcohol and won’t be tempted if offered — this is not compatible with our identity, we are taught and understand well from a young age. But interest? Riba? Gambling? The stuff that oppresses billions and is the root of our financial disparity? That stuff we’re never taught.
Instead we’re taught we have to work hard to get a big house with a big mortgage. We have to partake in the system and drown in debt too, with our student loans and credit cards.
Today, over 60% of the football shirts in the premier league are of finance or betting companies. An even higher percentage in the Championship. But these are socially acceptable, so it’s okay, right? Sure. But I’ll bet you they’ve caused infinitely more problems to the very fabric of society than the alcohol companies have done.
Society is already ill and more and more ills are constantly being promoted to all and sundry, like a never ending stream, unfortunately.
I know there’s bigger fish to fry then worry about who’s sponsoring a football shirt and I don’t mean to chastise anyone who does wear it, it’s not that deep. That’s not really the point of this post, it was more about our psyche and mentality.
And it was just prompted by a thought that came up when I saw this little Mo Salah wannabe.
His team may finally win the Premier League this year. But he should know that it was only way back when they last won the league title, back in 1989/90, that his team last had a ‘halal’ friendly top he could wear with pride!
A lifelong learner, avid reader and passionate writer, I am the founder of KNOW and a serial entrepreneur.
I am a huge believer in personal development and am also the co-founder of Muslim CEO.