A charitable gesture by football star Lionel Messi has provoked outrage in Egypt, where a lawmaker and football official took umbrage at the Argentine donating 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,” the interviewer said as she sat across from the Barcelona player, dangling his boots, in the segment aired on the weekend.
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 Eastern 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. I donate it to Argentina,” he said, holding up a beaten loafer.
“This is an insult to Egyptian people,” he added, 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 replied: “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.”
“People in Argentina sleep in parks!” Hasasein added.
Messi was born into a Catholic family, and has made the sign of the cross after scoring goals.
Some Egyptians criticised Messi, and his interviewer, on Twitter, using the hashtag “Messi’s boot for the Egyptian people”.
“It’s not your fault, Messi you dog. It’s the fault of that son-of-a-shoe channel, and that daughter-of-a-shoe interviewer,” wrote one.
Others, including former Egyptian football star Mido, defended Messi.
“The most precious thing a writer has is his pen, and the most precious thing a football player has is his boots,” he wrote on Twitter.