By Dr Sarah Marzouk
There has been quite a bit of online commentary, some of it quite derogatory, regarding the black robe that Lionel Messi wore prior to accepting the World Cup. For context, I wanted to explain its significance.
The garment is called a ‘bisht’, and it is an outer garment worn in predominantly Arab countries. The name is derived from the Akkadian word ‘bishtu’, which means ‘nobility’ or ‘prestige’.
This garment is considered a symbol of great honour. It’s a status symbol amongst royalty, the wealthy and those with high social rank, much like a cross between ceremonial graduation robes or, in Western terms, wearing a black tuxedo on a special occasion.
When it’s the Emir of a country literally gifting you the bisht, putting it on you with his own hands, it’s the highest honour that can be bestowed upon that civilian. It has nothing to do with religion at all.
Messi may not have understood what it meant when he graciously wore it, but it was the Qatari way of recognising him for the GOAT that he is.