The World Cup was won by Argentina on penalties after a 3-3 tie with France thanks to two goals from Lionel Messi. The captain of the squad raised the trophy alongside his teammates while donning a bisht, a traditional Arab cloak, that had been given to him by Gianni Infantino and the Emir of Qatar.
As he raised the World Cup trophy following his nation's thrilling triumph against France in the final, Lionel Messi was given a bisht. This traditional Arab robe covered much of his Argentina shirt.
Messi got the cloak thrown over his shirt by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, and Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA. The Argentine maestro scored Argentina's first and third goals as they drew 3-3 with France after extra time before overcoming them on penalties.
The duo then escorted the striker toward his teammates as he lifted the trophy while wearing the bisht, a status garment worn on important occasions by Arab men and sometimes associated with monarchy. The player represents Saudi Arabia as an ambassador while playing for Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain.
However, the gesture Messi received from the Emir of Qatar appeared to have sparked widespread speculations. Several players and pundits raised questions about the attire and how irrelevant it was to Messi and the Argentina squad.
Former Argentina defender Pablo Zabaleta was unhappy with Messi's position. Speaking as a pundit on the BBC, he said: "Just why? No reason to do that."
Former England striker Gary Lineker added: "It seems a shame, in a way, that they've covered up Messi in his Argentina shirt."
Also speaking to the BBC, Alan Shearer joked about the close attention Infantino paid towards Messi before handing him the trophy, saying: "I didn't think Infantino was going to let him go either."
Lineker then jokes: "Nobody marked him that tightly during the game.
"He is good in tight spaces though, so he got away from him in the end."
We should be careful before jumping to conclusions
It was unprecedented in a World Cup final. When the captain lifts the World Cup trophy, it is an iconic image that will live on forever.
Messi never gave the impression that he was mocking the little guy. Additionally, his renowned number 10 Argentina jersey, which sold out everywhere before the championship, was not completely covered.
Athletes who succeed are frequently presented with gifts or attire that reflects the local culture. The best illustration is Pele's 1970 World Cup triumph in Mexico, where he was given a sombrero to wear. Was Pele's moment "hijacked," as 7 News in Australia suggested?
As a matter of fact, media outlets have expressed their "astonishment" at Qatar's selection to host the World Cup ever since. Throughout the tournament's preparation and event, Eurocentric and hypocritical complaints remained. The indignation once again displayed unawareness over Messi's bite.
For many Arabs and Africans worldwide, the Moroccan national team's World Cup journey was a source of pride. The triumph of another Arab country and the celebrations of their shared culture were incredibly motivating for me as an Arab living in Iraq. After Morocco's string of unexpected triumphs.
Qatar was honoring Messi
Why the Emir of Qatar placed a bisht around Messi's shoulders has been explained by Dr. Mustafa Baig, a lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter.
The bisht, according to Dr. Baig, is a ceremonial robe worn by dignitaries, royalty, bridegrooms on their wedding days, and graduates at graduation ceremonies.
"Only a select few people would actually wear the bisht," he told the Press Association. "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."
Dr Baig said it is also representative of Qatar's national dress but only at important occasions.
"This is a top occasion," he said. "I mean, there's probably no bigger occasion, so they put it on him as a mark of honour."
Dr Baig also 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.