Cultural context matters, football fans or not. And even a superstar like Lionel Messi can cause ire by sending the wrong signals. What would have thrilled a football enthusiast in another part of the world has made Egyptians cry foul and denounce the player for being condescending.
In a recent television show broadcast by Egyptian channel Misr TV, Messi made a well-intentioned gesture by donating his football boots to a local charity auction. Though the presenter seemed to be thrilled by the ‘generous gift’, it drew howls from many unappreciative viewers.
In a country where shoes can symbolically be used to show disrespect – remember the Bush shoe gate incident back in 2008? – the internationally acclaimed footballer’s act was seen as offensive by Egyptians who took to social media to vent their anger.
Unlike the widely appreciated gift Messi sent for his young Afghan fan earlier this year – a team jersey and a football – this one turned out to be an unexpected, and of course unintended, faux pas.
An Egyptian Minister Said Hussain, who also hosts a TV show, went to the extreme of taking off his shoes on air and offering to donate them to Messi.
Needless to say, the offer was declined.