Fans are torn after Messi is draped in traditional Qatari robe following World Cup win

It's sparked quite the debate.

Danny Jones Danny Jones - 19th December 2022

On Sunday 19 December 2022, Lionel Messi finally realised a lifelong dream of lifting the World Cup, one that his fellow Argentinians and fans around the world all shared.

However, for many, what will go down as one of the most historic moments in football seems to have had some of the shine taken off it because of how he lifted the trophy and because of one thing: a robe.

For anyone who somehow didn’t manage to catch the long-dreamt-of scenes, Messi was draped in a special robe by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, just before he lifted the trophy and it has left many football supporters divided.

While the ceremonial cloak made him look like what millions already consider him – royalty – some found it uncomfortable and unnecessary.

As explained above, the robe itself is a ‘Beshth’ or ‘Bisht’, which is said to not only have been a mark of respect made by the Middle East but a fairly typical ceremonial garment across the region.


While millions were clearly left feeling uneasy over the Bisht’s meaning, rather than simply being associated with Qatari royalty, it actually had more to do with tradition and the country embracing him in this historic moment which played out on their home turf.

Alternatively, some have also interpreted the gesture as the nation’s way of dubbing Messi “the king of football“. The image has no doubt left a lasting impression.


Nevertheless, for lots of those watching around the world, this moment preceding Messi’s almost mythologised trophy lift was less about the meaning behind the bisht but more about who handed it to him and what it represented in the grander scheme of football.

A deferential and ostensibly innocent token of admiration it may be, the Emir of Qatar and his regime are not. The legacy of this tournament is built on the countless lives affected, be it the migrant workers who were abused and died erecting the stadiums or marginalised groups like the LGBTQ+ community.

In the eyes of critics, this not only displayed how the controversial and much-maligned hosts foisted themselves into a deeply special and long-awaited moment, but it was emblematic of the undercurrent of sportwashing tightening its grip on the beautiful game.


On the other hand, just as many commentators have dubbed the coverage by large sections of Western media as “ignorant”, “quick to judge”, “Islamaphobic” and “racist”, with the likes of Gary Lineker taking flak for describing the choice as “a shame”.

Former Manchester City man and ex-Argentina teammate Pablo Zabaleta asked from the studio, “Just why? There’s no reason to do that”, once again suggesting that the Sheikh and FIFA President Gianni Infantino made the moment more about the Qatar 2022 campaign than the man of the moment.

Either way, there seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding for both arguments and while most Brits watching back home will have likely had little to no knowledge of the reasoning beyond it being a cultural custom, others online have pointed out that football has seen similar scenes before.

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What do you think? Was this simply a mark of respect misunderstood by the majority of the Western world, an unnecessary stunt that took away from the GOAT’s most iconic moment, or another instance of FIFA and Qatar putting their own interests before the sport?

One thing we can all agree on is Messi is very, very good at football, having now every accolade there is to win in football.


Penny for Ronaldo and Piers Morgan‘s thoughts this morning.

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Featured Image — BBC Sport/Leo Messi (via Instagram)