Muslim-run football club bans alcohol, shocks Belgians

In Vilvoorde, near Brussels, a football club managed by Belgian Muslims decided to stop serving beer in its cafeteria. Many white residents were offended by the ban, and fear that Islam is encroaching on Belgian culture.

Marjan Justaert
Marjan Justaert De Standaard, Belgium
Source: De Standaard
Muslim-run football club bans alcohol, shocks Belgians - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

When it comes to ethnic backgrounds, Vilvoorde is as diverse as can be. But have its inhabitants learned to live together, or are they tolerating one another?

Daily dissensions, like the local football club's controversial alcohol ban, show the struggle.

The decision of the Moroccan-Belgian club managers was extensively criticized, and the team now has trouble attracting white players.

On one hand, the freedom to assemble and to practice a religion are fundamental rights. On the other, banning certain behaviors on the grounds of religion can feel like taking a step backwards. Or is it a step forward in acceptance?

Club manager Carime Fnine says he was also motivated by health reasons, arguing that Belgium's love for alcohol is detrimental. He adds: "If people want to go for a drink somewhere else then they are free to do so." 

Both sides have valid arguments, but the issue proves that, in cities like Vilvoorde, social inclusion is a challenge in every area of life -- even in sport. 

Details from the story:

  • Football Club Vilvoorde, a team aiming to unite youth players of different ethnic backgrounds, decided to ban alcohol in its cafeteria three years ago.
  • Since the decision was taken by Muslim managers, Belgians -- mostly white -- were shocked. In their eyes, beer and football is holy Belgian tradition that cannot be tampered with.
  • In Vilvoorde the club has the reputation of being a "Muslim club".
  • The club's management says it banned alcohol for religious reasons, but also to provide a healthier environment.
  • "We have to be an example for the youth", says manager Carime Fnine.
  • Recently a visiting soccer team collectively left the cafeteria to protest against the alcohol ban.
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