Messi, in act of charity, insults Egyptian politician with cultural faux pas

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Lionel Messi likely meant well when he offered to an Egyptian television show to sell his boots for charity.

It didn’t go over so well.

The Barcelona superstar appeared on Egyptian TV station MBC Masr and its program “Yes, I am famous” to be interviewed by Mona El-Sharkawy. During the interview, he agreed to auction off his boots and give the proceeds to charity.

Unfortunately for Messi, in Arab culture shoes are a sign of insult, disdain, or uncleanliness as George W. Bush found out the hard way back in 2008. Thus, a few Egyptians took the gesture very unkindly.

“Whose shoes do you want to sell, Messi?” said Said Hasasin, an Egyptian parliament member and TV host. “How much do you think it will get? You don’t know that the nail of a baby Egyptian is worth more than your shoes? Keep your shoes to yourself.”

“Messi, we Egyptians are 90 million people, who have pride, we have shoes. We don’t eat off the money of other peoples’ shoes. I would have understood if he donated his Barcelona uniform to the Egyptians, it’s accepted. But just the shoes? It’s humiliating to all Egyptians and I do not accept this humiliation. Egyptians may not find food, but they have pride. We Egyptians have never been humiliated before during our seven thousand years of civilization.”

The MBC Masr interviewer came to Messi’s aid, but instead of supporting the notion that the footballer simply did not know his actions were insulting, she gave another excuse for him, saying he did not specifically intend to donate to an Egyptian charity. “It’s a trend on our show that we take a souvenir from our guest and put it on auction for charity,” El-Sharkawy said to news outlet Ahram. “I am surprised, I didn’t say we will be giving it to charity in Egypt or any other place. I don’t know why they said he is presenting it to Egypt. This was never said.”

For what it’s worth, former Egypt international Mido supported Messi on Twitter, posting a deep quote from a player’s perspective. “The most precious thing the writer owns is his pen, and the most precious thing the footballer owns is his shoes.”

Well said.