When the most famous footballer in the world donates his boots to a charity auction, you may get the opinion that there is nothing to like. But is that really so? Lionel Messi would soon learn that such a kind gesture would upset some individuals depending on the cultural context.
It is barely weeks ago when Lionel Messi made the dream of a young Afghan fan come true by sending him a football and a shirt.
However, the player made the same gesture this week on Egyptian TV and was viewd to be a national insult. During the “Yes I am Famous” TV interview which is broadcasted on MBC Misr Channel, the Argentine forward informed the presenter that he would love to offer his boots for a auctioning to a charity.
What Messi failed to recognize is that Egypt as well as other Arabian countries view shoes as being a symbol of disrespect. Some Egyptians got offended and turned to the social media.
“This is the most disgusting. He was paid thousands of dollars and at the end he donated his shoes and the stupid presenter was happy,” tweeted one user called @Sala77ar7ash. Another user called @sulimanahmad670 commented: “Egypt’s name is greater than Messi’s shoes. This is a big insult to Egypt,” wrote @sulimanahmad670.
In Arab culture, it is an insult to show the soles of your shoes. It is offensive to use the expression “to hit someone with a shoe” in Arabic. You may probably recall an incident in which President George W Bush was thrown at shoes at a press conference in 2008.
The shoe is viewed to be dirty because it touches the ground and associated with the foot which is the body’s lowest part. Some were not happy that the presenter Mona al-Sharqawi failed to decline Messi’s generous donation.
“Wake up Arabs and smell the coffee. No time for sleeping. She [the presenter] should have refused this insignificant donation,” tweeted @awatifalqaisey.
Egyptian PM replied via a programme that he presents referred to as Infrad on a private Al-Asimah TV by taking off his shoe and said that he would be happy to donate them to Messi.
Opponents of the PM used the opportunity to hit at him using the hash tag: “Messi’s_shoes_to_AlSisi’s_people.”
Some people wondered the reason for linking the name of the president to the issue. “Why you put Al-Sisi in anything happening?” one Twitter user @moody7amada wondered.