Italy's goalscoring hero Manuel Locatelli follows Cristiano Ronaldo's lead

Manuel Locatelli has joined Cristiano Ronaldo in moving Coca-Cola bottles aside and proclaiming “Water” during a European Championship press conference.

Italy’s man of the match in their 3-0 win over Switzerland on Wednesday night did so following calls from health experts for more players to follow the lead of Ronaldo and Paul Pogba, who removed a bottle of Heineken from view.

Ronaldo began the trend on Monday when he took exception to two bottles of Coke being placed in front of him ahead of Portugal’s game against Hungary.

He was joined by Pogba the following evening after the Manchester United star was named man of the match in France’s 1-0 win against Germany.

The Heineken was alcohol-free and it is unclear whether Pogba, who is Muslim, knew that to be the case.

Opponents of sport’s promotion of unhealthy food and drinks brands had been hoping the public shows of disdain would inspire others to follow suit.

Caroline Cerny of the Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of more than 40 major health organisations, said: “Ronaldo’s defiant stance against being associated with a sugary drink could mark a turning point and we hope other sports stars will similarly refuse to be used as walking adverts for junk food and other unhealthy products. It’s time to break the link between unhealthy brands and sports sponsorship so children are not exposed to a flood of marketing when they watch or play their favourite sports.”

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, which has more than 50 members, added: “I applaud Paul Pogba’s decision to remove the bottle of alcohol that was placed in front of him at last night’s press conference. Whether the beer was non-alcoholic or not, the branding unmistakably belongs to a beer company.

“Products that harm our health, such as alcohol, do not belong in sports tournaments and yet viewers and players are constantly bombarded with images of alcohol while they play. Given the harm that alcohol can inflict on our communities and the fact that 2020 saw the highest level of alcohol-related deaths since records began, it is time to end alcohol sponsorship in professional sport.”

Dr James Davies MP, a member of the Health and Social Care select committee and a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity, said: “It’s refreshing to see key figures in sport highlighting the need for healthier lifestyles.”

In response to Ronaldo’s Coca-Cola snub, a Euro 2020 spokesman said: “Players are offered water, alongside Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, on arrival at our press conferences.”

Coca-Cola issues a statement saying “everyone is entitled to their drink preferences” and that everyone has different “tastes and needs”.

Heineken said of Pogba: “We fully respect everyone’s decision when it comes to their beverage of choice.
“Far from promoting the consumption of alcohol, Heineken 0.0 is helping consumers decrease their alcohol intake, allowing them to substitute for great tasting alcohol-free beer when it suits them, giving our consumers greater choice.”