Lionel Messi's fame goes the world over and quite possibly into the nether regions of space. His ability to inspire on the football pitch transverses cultures and gives people with completely different backgrounds some common ground.
Not only has Messi inspired many whilst playing for both Argentina and Barcelona, but he has also used his influence as a cause for good. He recently made global news when arranging to meet a young boy from Afghanistan, who went viral after appearing to play football in a plastic shopping bag with his name on the back.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is a charitable man, to say the least, but his good nature has led to some pretty unwanted attention in Egypt, where his kind offer of a pair of football boots to a TV presenter has sparked outrage amongst some and a nationwide debate.
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As reported by the BBC, Messi recently appeared on popular TV show "Yes I am Famous" and kindly donated his football boots to the presenter, who accepted the offer with as much enthusiasm as any football fan would.
However, little did Messi know, the offer of shoes is seen as a symbol of disrespect in Egypt and other Arab countries. Indeed, many have claimed that Messi's gift, which were designated for donation to charity, was a deep insult to the nation. The expression "to hit someone with a shoe" is offensive.
The shoe is considered a symbol of disrespect because it is associated with both the foot, the lowest part of the body, and dirt. Some have even taken aim at the presenter, Mona al-Sharqawi, for accepting the boots with her hands.
Egyptian MP Said Hasasin took Messi's donation as an insult and went as far as to offer his own shoes to Messi during his live television show "Infirad".
"We [Egyptians] have never been humiliated during our seven thousand years of civilisation... I will hit you with the shoes, Messi," the politician said.
Egyptian Football Association official Azmy Megahed was equally critical whilst speaking on the same show.
"Our poor don't need him. Work shoes for him,” Megahed said.
"I am confused, if he intends to humiliate us, then I say he better put these shoes on his head and on the heads of the people supporting him.
"We don't need his shoes and we don't need charity from Jewish or Israeli people. Give your shoes to your country, Argentina is full of poverty."
A national debate
Intriguingly, supporters of Messi have used the debate as an opportunity to criticise Egyptian president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi with the hashtag "Messi's_shoes_to_AlSisi's_people" [translated] being used over 15,000 times on Twitter.
There is, of course, no real relation between Messi and the president of Egypt and the campaign has been questioned by the national media.
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