Barcelona star Lionel Messi has been labelled “Jewish” and a “Zionist” by Egyptian officials after he donated his football boots to to a charity during a TV interview in Egypt.
Mona El-Sharkawy, who was hosting “Yes, I Am Famous”, said: “One of the things he does is give charity all over the world, and these will be among the donations he gives”, while holding a pair of his boots, before adding: “And he gave these to our program because we will have an auction for them. Messi, thank you very very much.”
Shoes are considered an insult in Arab and Egyptian culture, and his donation led to a string of abuse and accusations. Said Hasasein, a member of the Egyptian parliament, said: “Whose shoes do you want to sell, Messi? 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 or sell them to Israel.”
Egyptian Football Federation spokesman Azmi Mogahed phoned in to criticise Messi, and was in mid-flow when interrupted by Hasasein, who said: “His religion is Jewish!”. Mogahed then replied, saying: “I know he’s Jewish, he donates to Israel and visited the Wailing Wall and whatever…we don’t need his shoe and Egypt’s poor don’t need help from someone with Jewish or Zionist citizenship.”
Messi, who’s Catholic, did visit the Western Wall back in 2013, as part of a peace tour with Barcelona. He also supported a football match a year later, which was organised by Pope Francis to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.