After 28 days, 64 games and 172 goals in Qatar 2022, Lionel Messi took the stage at Lusail Stadium to finally get his hands on the World Cup trophy that had eluded him throughout his career.
Before joining his teammates, who awaited their captain in a hive of excitement on a nearby podium, Messi first shook hands with FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Tamim then placed a black and gold bisht – a traditional piece of clothing worn in the region for special events and celebrations – on the Argentine captain before presenting the trophy to the 35-year-old.
In his new clothes, which covered his national light blue and white jersey, Messi danced to his teammates before lifting the trophy above his head.
For some, it was the perfect end to what many consider to be the greatest World Cup ever.
For others, however, it ruined the moment.
“It seems a bit of a shame they covered Messi in his Argentina shirt,” said former England international and presenter Gary Lineker on BBC’s live coverage of the final.
For others, it was a last-ditch effort by Qatar to make its mark on the tournament – a critique of the “sportwashing” (with critics accusing Qatar of taking the opportunity to cover up its human rights record) which underpinned much of the coverage of the tournament.
“There is something strange about Messi dressed in Bisht, that black cloak that the Emir of Qatar dressed him in before he lifted the World Cup,” said New York Times journalist Tariq Panja. tweeted.
“Qatar wants this to be his moment as much as Messi and Argentina.”
There was more criticism from other media, with Britain’s newspaper The Telegraph originally running the headline “The bizarre act that ruined the greatest moment in World Cup history”, referring to Messi wearing the bisht.
Later the headline of the story changed to “Lionel Messi had to wear traditional Arabic bisht for lifting World Cup trophies.”
Messi didn’t wear the garment for long, taking it off shortly after the trophy presentation and celebrating with his teammates in Argentina’s signature jersey.
Amid the criticism, Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), an organization charged with hosting the World Cup, tried to explain the reasons behind the bisht.
“It is a dress for an official occasion and worn for parties. This was a celebration of Messi,” Al Thawadi told BBC Sport.
“The World Cup had the opportunity to show our Arab and Islamic culture to the world. This was not about Qatar, it was a regional celebration.
“People from different walks of life could come, experience what happened here and understand that we may not agree on everything, but we can still celebrate together.”
Others on social media were outraged by the criticism of the bisht, saying it was steeped in ignorance and misunderstanding of Qatar’s culture.
It was another example, they said, of the constant criticism the country has faced since winning the right to host the tournament.
“Some are angry because Messi wore a bisht (it was gifted to him; a symbol of appreciation and respect in Arab culture),” writes writer and columnist Reem Al-Harmi. tweeted.
“However, I did not see the same level of anger and outrage when racism, Islamophobia and Orientalism were constantly used against the World Cup in Qatar.
“Instead of prejudice and judgmental views, turning this beautiful and meaningful picture into something that isn’t, read about the Arab bisht; its importance, and why/when it is worn.
“Giving someone a bisht shows how important/respectful they are, that’s Messi today.”
CNN reached out to FIFA for comment on the decision to use the bisht during the presentation ceremony.
Messi has not publicly commented on the bisht.