18 December 2022

Traditional Arab robe worn by Lionel Messi to collect World Cup raises eyebrows

18 December 2022

Gary Lineker and Pablo Zabaleta were left baffled by the sight of Lionel Messi lifting the World Cup in a see-through black robe.

Argentina captain Messi scored twice in the dramatic 3-3 draw with France before his side triumphed on penalties to finally win football’s ultimate prize at the age of 35.

At the trophy presentation he was offered a bisht, a traditional Arab cloak, to wear by the Emir of Qatar.

Messi allowed the Emir to place the robe around his shoulders before taking the trophy from FIFA president Gianni Infantino, and lifting it in front of his ecstatic team-mates.

BBC presenter Lineker felt the decision spoiled what should have been a “magic moment”.

The former England striker said: “This is a magic moment. It seems a shame in a way that they’ve covered up Messi in his Argentina shirt.”

Ex-Argentina defender Zabaleta agreed, saying on BBC One: “Just why? No reason to do that.”

FIFA has been asked to comment by the PA news agency.

The Emir, Sheikh Tamim, wrote on Twitter: “I congratulate the Argentine national team for winning the Qatar World Cup 2022, and the French national team… and I thank all the teams for their wonderful play, and the fans who enthusiastically encouraged them.

“In conclusion, we have fulfilled our promise to organise an exceptional championship from the Arab countries, which provided an opportunity for the peoples of the world to learn about the richness of our culture and the originality of our values.”

Dr Mustafa Baig, a lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, told PA that the bisht is a formal robe worn by royalty, dignitaries, grooms on their wedding day, and graduates at graduation ceremonies.

“So only a select few people would actually wear the bisht,” he said.

Speaking about Messi wearing the garment, Dr Baig said: “They basically honoured him by putting it over his shoulders.

There’s probably no bigger occasion, so they put it on him as a mark of honour

“It’s like a mark of honour, and just kind of a cultural welcoming and a cultural acceptance.”

Dr Baig said it is also representative of Qatar’s national dress – but only at important occasions.

“And this is a top occasion. I mean, there’s probably no bigger occasion, so they put it on him as a mark of honour,” he said.

Dr Baig said he saw it as “an embrace by Messi of the local culture”, adding that it was “a pretty cool thing” for Qatar to do and “smart thinking” on their behalf.

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