The controversy over Messi's tunic comes late: the football of the future is all support, business and propaganda

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The controversy over Messi's tunic comes late: the football of the future is all support, business and propaganda

Yes scandalized because Leo Messi, captain and “hero” of Argentina's soccer world champion, was forced to wear a black bisht by Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, a prestigious tunic which for the Arabs is a symbol of sovereignty and royalty, i.e. a gesture of great respect for those who wear it, therefore an honor according to local customs (throughout the Arab world). But it is a late controversy in my opinion, which tastes so much like crocodile tears: what was expected of those who control global football? From whom did he bring the sacred rite of the World Cup to countries where freedoms are strictly controlled and rights a chimera? A football whose stadiums were built with the sacrifice of thousands of workers, whose lives are sold and held hostage, not even worth a shot from Messi or a beating from Mbappé?

The “new” football without borders – in reality, celebrated between ever higher walls – now it is increasingly pointing towards autocracies and states that we consider “unpresentable”,they have immense capital and are accountable to no one, so he started with Russia, then moved on to the countries of the Middle East, he can't wait to break into China, with the approval of the big multinationals that juggle the powers media and hi-tech.

At the final in the grandstand, next to Naila Asker-zade, wife of the banker Andrei Kostin, president of Vtb, one of Putin's closest collaborators, < strong>there was Elon Musk. It is football that Gianni Infantino, president of Fifa, theorises and is re-founding, at the cost of disconcerting compromises and inadmissible complacency in the eyes of purists who still dream of the football of once upon a time, lying to themselves, since today's football is now something that goes beyond fences(and stadiums) of yore. No, Messi could not refuse such an “investiture”, under the paternalistic gaze of the emir whose money finances Paris St. Germain who hired him lavishly and the complaisant gaze of Infantino who considers him the ideal global football ambassador?

Come on, let's not kid ourselves. This is the reality of the ball.

Obtorto collo , Messi, quite puzzled by the unusual ceremony, had to accept the astute courtesy of Al-Thani, since he could not say no to your employer. Salaried PSG since 2011 is owned by Qatar Sport Investmentchaired by the powerful Nasser bin Ghanim Al Khelaifi, the master of the “beIn” media group as well as a member of the Board of Directors of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), an opulent sovereign fund, among the most active in the world, which manages 450 billion dollars, not peanuts, that is, a quarter of our GDP.In short, Messi, albeit reluctant, was forced to betray his technical sponsor Adidas (furious) and above all the most iconic moment of a footballer's career, raising the Cup with the national team shirt covered by the Qatari tunic.

Moreover, the Fifa regulation would prohibit it. However, Infantino granted the derogation to his guest, on the day of the national holiday: in the eyes of the whole Arab world, Al-Thani will have reasoned, Messi will appear with the rank of ruler in the football empire, a very high honor that is granted only to the most illustrious people. He makes us proud that the Argentine star, he added, is a PSG player, which is our showcase in the world of sport. Cunning. In the same team play Mbappé, the strongest player around, and Neymar, the Brazilian ace. Argentina, France, Brazil were the three favorite teams. Whatever happened, Qatar could have claimed their share of the triumph.

Let's face it, then: with the bisht worn by Messi, Al-Thani has politicized a unique and unrepeatable moment in the popular history of football, carrying out a sophisticated propaganda operation disguised as a gesture of infinite courtesy (the stage for the final awards, in the center of the Lusail stadium was in the shape of the infinite sign, symbol of mathematical abstraction). Every detail, therefore, of the ceremony was aimed at emphasizing the key role of Qatar, and instead forget the massacres of the workers, thousands (for the Guardian, over six thousand victims in construction sites, the last one a few days ago, while he was intervening on the eighth floor of the hotel that housed the Saudi Arabian delegation), but also the Qatargate of these hours: beware was Doha's message to Brussels, we have nothing to do with it. If you involve us, goodbye to gas supplies. And who is the first customer? Just Italy, followed by France. Not surprisingly, with the excuse of being present at the last crucial matches of the Les Bleus, President Macron rushed to Qatar. Cheering and business.

Reassurances on supplies, in exchange for military orders. And reassurances on the close ties between Paris and Doha (by the way: in 2015 the public prosecutor's office in the French capital had opened an embarrassing investigation into an alleged secret agreement between the Elysée palace and the Qatari emirs, regarding political support to the controversial candidacy for the World Cup). As you can see, palace and investment intrigues. A do ut des. Masked by the bisht which is usually slipped over a thobe, the long tunic down to the ankles. It reminded me of those transparent and mischievous dressing gowns that the girls at the Moulin Rouge wore (don't tell me any Arab readers), before starting their spicy numbers. Country you go, custom you find.

Football of the future will be forced to deal with (or suffer from) different cultures and lifestyles and, certainly in countries where civil rights are only simulacra< /strong>, sinister propaganda devices.