Cairo: A charitable gesture by Argentinian football star Lionel Messi has provoked outrage in Egypt, where a lawmaker and football official took umbrage at the donation: his football boots.
Messi, in an interview with the private satellite channel MBC Misr, had donated his boots to the channel to auction them off for charity. "Messi, I really thank you," said the interviewer as she sat across from the Barcelona player, dangling his boots, in the segment aired on Saturday.
While no one would consider being hit with a shoe or boot, or being labelled a shoe a compliment, it is especially insulting in Middle East cultures. Donating boots, it emerged, was equally insulting to Egyptian member of parliament Said Hasasein, who attacked Messi on his television show.
"This is my shoe," he said, holding up a beaten loafer. "I donate it to Argentina. "This is an insult to Egyptian people," he elaborated, thumping his fist on his desk. Egyptian Football Federation spokesman Azmi Mogahed phoned in to the show to express his outrage.
"Even in our religion..." he began to say, when Hasasein interrupted: "His religion is Jewish!" Mogahed agreed. "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." Some Egyptians criticised Messi, and his interviewer, on Twitter, using the hashtag "Messi's boot for the Egyptian people."