Mixed reaction as Lionel Messi draped in Arab cloak before lifting World Cup

  • Qatar’s emir places black bisht on Argentina’s captain
  • Praise on social media in region but criticism in west

It was the big payback moment for Qatar’s $220bn investment: images of Lionel Messi being draped in a black bisht – a traditional men’s cloak in the Arab world – by the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, as Argentina’s captain prepared to lift the trophy.

The bisht covered part of Messi’s Argentina shirt, including the national badge, during the ceremony – ensuring that iconic images of the trophy lift will remain a reminder of whose World Cup this was. Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, watched on smiling as the garment was put in place.

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The gesture attracted praise on social media in the region as a sign of respect but drew renewed complaints of sportswashing from western Twitter users, while the BBC pundit Pablo Zabaleta asked: “Just why? There’s no reason to do that.” BBC host Gary Lineker said it was “a shame they’ve covered his shirt” during what was “a magic moment”.

The bisht was placed on Messi after Argentina had beaten France on penalties, deciding a pulsating final that had ended 3-3. Messi scored twice – and tucked away his spot-kick in the shootout – to help his team win a first World Cup since 1986.


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