(CNN) — After 28 days, 64 matches and 172 goals at Qatar 2022, Lionel Messi stepped onto the podium 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 were awaiting their captain in a hive of emotion on a nearby stage, Messi first shook hands with FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Tamim then donned the Argentine captain a black and gold cape called a “bisht” — a traditional garment worn in the region for special events and celebrations — before the 35-year-old was presented with the trophy.
In his new outfit, which covered his light blue and white national jersey, Messi danced towards his teammates before raising the trophy above his head.
For some, it was the finishing touch to a tournament considered by many to be the best World Cup in history.
However, for others, it ruined the moment.
“In a way, it’s a shame that Messi has been covered up in the Argentina shirt,” former England international and presenter Gary Lineker said on the BBC’s live broadcast of the final.
For others, it was a last-ditch attempt by Qatar to make its mark on the tournament, a criticism of “sporting image whitewashing” (in which critics accused Qatar of using the opportunity to hide its record of infringing on rights). humans) on which much of the coverage of the tournament has been based.
“There is something a bit strange about Messi wearing a ‘bisht’, that black cape that the emir of Qatar dressed him in before lifting the World Cup,” tweeted journalist Tariq Panja, from The New York Times newspaper.
“Qatar wants this to be their moment as much as Messi’s and Argentina’s.”
There was further criticism from other media outlets, with Britain’s The Telegraph newspaper originally writing the headline “The strange act that ruined the greatest moment in World Cup history” referring to Messi wearing the “bisht”.
Later he changed the headline of the news to “Lionel Messi forced to wear the traditional Arab ‘bisht’ to lift the World Cup trophy.”
Messi did not wear the garment for long, taking it off shortly after the trophy was handed over and celebrating with his teammates in Argentina’s distinctive jersey.
Amid the criticism, Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), the body in charge of organizing the World Cup, tried to explain the reasons behind the “bisht”.
“It is a dress for an official occasion and it is used for celebrations. This was a celebration of Messi,” Al Thawadi told BBC Sport.
“The World Cup was an opportunity to show the world our Arab and Muslim culture. It wasn’t about Qatar, it was a regional celebration.”
“People from different walks of life were able to come, experience what was happening here, and come to understand that we may not agree on everything, but we can still celebrate together.”
Others were outraged on social media by the criticism of “bisht”, claiming it was steeped in ignorance and misunderstanding about Qatari culture.
This is one more example of the constant criticism that the country has received since it obtained the right to host the tournament.
“Some are angry that Messi was wearing a ‘bisht’ (given to him; a symbol of appreciation and respect in Arab culture),” 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 critical opinion, turning this beautiful and meaningful photo into something it is not, read about the Arabic ‘bisht’; its importance, and why/when it is used.”
“Giving someone a ‘bisht’ shows how important/respected they are, that’s Messi today.”
CNN has contacted FIFA for comment on the decision to use the ‘bisht’ at the trophy presentation ceremony.
Messi has not publicly pronounced on the ‘bisht’.