After 28 days, 64 matches and 172 goals in Qatar 2022, Lionel Messi climbed onto the podium at Lusail Stadium to finally claim the World Cup that had eluded him throughout his career.
Before joining his teammates, who were awaiting their captain in a hive of excitement on a nearby platform, Messi first shook hands with FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Then Tamim laid a black and gold bisht – a traditional piece of clothing worn in the region for special occasions and celebrations – over the Argentina captain before handing the trophy to the 35-year-old.
In his new uniform, which covered his blue and white national jersey, Messi danced towards his teammates before hoisting the trophy above his head.
That was, for some, the perfect end to a tournament that many considered the best World Cup ever.
However, for others, the moment was ruined.
“It looks disgraceful in the way Messi is covered up in an Argentina shirt,” former England international and broadcaster Gary Lineker said on the BBC’s live coverage of the final.
For others, it was Qatar’s final attempt to put its stamp on the tournament – a criticism of the “sportswashing” (in which critics accused Qatar of using the opportunity to cover up its human rights record) that fueled much of the competition’s coverage.
“Something is a bit strange about Messi wearing a bisht, that black cloak that the Emir of Qatar wore before lifting the World Cup,” New York Times journalist Tarek Banga said. chirp.
Qatar wants this to be their moment as much as they want Messi and Argentina.
There was more criticism from other media, with Britain’s The Telegraph originally writing the headline “The freak that ruined the greatest moment in World Cup history” in reference to the bisht-wearing Messi.
He later changed the title of the story to “The Making of Lionel Messi Wearing the Traditional Arab Bisht to Lift the World Cup.”
Messi did not wear the piece of clothing for a long time, and took it off shortly after the trophy was presented and celebrated with his teammates in the distinctive Argentine jersey.
Amidst the criticism, Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy in Qatar, an organization tasked with organizing the World Cup, tried to explain the reasons for the bisht.
It is a formal occasion dress and worn in ceremonies. “This was a celebration of Messi,” Al Thawadi told BBC Sport.
The World Cup gave us the opportunity to show the world our Arab and Islamic culture. It wasn’t about Qatar, it was a regional celebration.
“People from different walks of life were able to come and experience what was going on here and understand that we may not see everything eye to eye, but we can still celebrate together.”
Others on social media were angered by Al-Bisht’s criticism, saying he was mired in ignorance and misunderstanding of Qatari culture.
They said it was another example of the constant criticism the country has received since winning the right to host the tournament.
“Some are angry because Messi was wearing a bisht (which was gifted to him as a symbol of appreciation and respect in Arab culture),” author and writer Reem Al-Harami. chirp.
However, I have not seen the same level of anger and anger when racism, Islamophobia and Orientalism were constantly used against the World Cup in Qatar.
Instead of prejudices and judgmental views, turning this beautiful and meaningful image into something it is not, read about the Arab Bisht; its significance and why/when it is worn.
“Giving someone a Bisht, it shows how important/respected they are, that’s Messi today.”
CNN has reached out to FIFA for comment on the decision to use the bisht at the presentation ceremony.
Messi did not comment publicly on the bisht.
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