REVEALED: Why Lionel Messi donned traditional Arab robe to lift the World Cup trophy with the footballing world split on the Argentina captain being bestowed the dress by the Emir of Qatar
Eyebrows were raised around the world after Lionel Messi – just moments before finally getting his hands on the prize him and Argentina craved more than all – was dressed in a robe by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim.
Having finally got his hands on the World Cup, Messi’s chance to lift the trophy was delayed as he was dressed in the robe by the Emir of Qatar with FIFA president Gianni Infantino watching on rather closely.
Called a bisht, the robe is traditionally worn at major occasions such as weddings and other events and signifies honour and prestige – the significance of Messi being dressed in one by the leader of the country was not lost on many observers.
Many were left wondering what exactly was the significance of the robe Lionel Messi wore
The bisht is worn by men and is an Arab world-wide item of dress, rather than just a Qatari tradition. It is dark in colour with a light material used to make it. The trimming on the outer edges is made out of real gold. It is a tradition stretching back hundreds of years.
Mustafa Baig, lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, told the DPA News Agency (via Al Jazeera, the Qatari-owned media organisation) of the significance of the bisht.
‘So only a select few people would actually wear the bisht,’ he said. ‘They basically honoured him [Messi] by putting it over his shoulders. It’s like a mark of honour, and just kind of a cultural welcoming and a cultural acceptance.
‘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.
Called a bisht, it signifies prestige – with many observers pointing out the significance of Messi being dressed in it by the Emir of Qatar
Messi wore the robe prior to being handed the trophy he has craved his entire career
Speaking after the game to BBC Sport, Qatar’s secretary general of their World Cup organising committee, Hassan Al Thawadi said it was significant in that it marked the end of a celebration of the entire Arab region and its shared cultures.
‘It is a dress for an official occasion and worn for celebrations,’ he said. ‘This was a celebration of Messi.
‘The World Cup had the opportunity to showcase to the world our Arab and Muslim culture. This was not about Qatar, it was a regional celebration.
Argentina’s players surrounded their talisman and captain as he lifted the trophy to conclude four weeks of football
‘People from different walks of life were able to come, experience what was happening here and get to understand that we may not see eye to eye on everything, but we can still celebrate together.’
Opinion was divided on whether or not the move was disrespectful or not, with some observes suggesting it overshadowed the moment Messi had been waiting his entire life to fulfil.
‘Just why?’ asked BBC pundit Pablo Zabaleta, as the robe was bestowed over his former international team-mate’s shoulders. ‘No reason to do that.’
One individual on Twitter agreed with Zabaleta, writing: ‘Iconic moment ruined by that awful cape. Qatar signing off with a bang.’
Pablo Zabaleta – speaking on the BBC – criticised the move to seemingly make Messi wear it
However, one observer on social media said that ‘haters’ will never understand the significance of the moment of ‘king’ Messi being dressed in the robe.
‘Messi is being honoured as royalty in his Argentinian shirt, as the King of Football,’ they wrote. ‘It’s poetic. I don’t expect haters to understand because small minds will never get to king level.’
‘A sign of respect, clothing only worn by royals. However they’re trying to tell you it ruined the moment? That moment made gave Messi’s World Cup win MORE significance, don’t listen to these agenda specialists,’ another added.