Argentinian-Spanish soccer megastar Lionel Messi inadvertently caused a scandal when he offered a pair of his used soccer shoes as a donation during an Egyptian television program on the private network MBC Masr.
"One of the things he does is give charity all over the world and these will be among the donations he gives," Egyptian presenter Mona El-Sharkawy said as the red and white shoes held up to the camera. "And he gave these to our program because we will start an auction for them. Messi, Thank you very very much."
The well-meaning donation was received as a great insult, however.
"We (Egyptians) have never been so humiliated during our seven thousand years of civilization," Said Hasasin, a controversial member of parliament and a TV presenter responded during his program Sunday. "I will hit you with the shoes, Messi," he said, as he held up his own shoes, and mockingly said he would donate his leather lace-ups to Argentina.
CNN's attempts to contact Messi through his club team, Barcelona, have proved unsuccessful.
The insult stems from the fact that shoes are considered one of “the lowliest of items, because it literally touches the ground, many Egyptians find it a dirty and inappropriate object,” explained CNN.
Even Egypt's Soccer Association spokesman Azmy Megahed spoke out on the issue, saying: "Our poor don't need him. Shoes work for him…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. Give your shoes to your country, Argentina is full of poverty."
El-Sharkawy defended her program publicly by arguing that donations were not necessarily intended for Egypt's poor.
"Messi did not even mention Egypt and I did not say the proceeds would go to Egypt," the anchor said, "I am so surprised that people are accusing us of things that weren't even said."