Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Keep your boots to yourself

Published:Monday | April 11, 2016 | 4:00 AM
Lionel Messi

Culture is a hell of a ting, enuh!

Big baller Lionel Messi recently donated a pair of boots during an Egyptian television programme. The plan is for the boots to be auctioned, and the money raised will go to charity. Now, to you and me, such a gesture would seem quite gracious on the part of the football icon - especially since the proceeds aren't going to his homeland of Argentina, or the country where he has made his name - Spain.

But massa, one problem inna Egypt because a di boot dem! In Egypt, shoes are considered the lowliest (literally, if you think about it) form of clothing. According to CNN, if an elder sees the soles of your shoes, a worries! So not only did people not get a kick out of Messi's gesture, it was taken as an insult; it was downright denounced and vehemently vilified. Even the spokesman for the football federation, who one would think would understand if the shoe (boot) was on the other foot, basically said Egypt doesn't need his shoes, and that he should donate them to Argentina because there's much poverty there. My gosh!

What a stress! Kind of makes you say damned if you do, damned if you don't. If a superstar like Messi isn't part of a campaign to raise funds or awareness, he's considered a bad role model. And when he does, it's still a problem. But the bigger issue is that people have to understand different cultures. But they have to know the culture to begin with. To be fair to Messi, how many of us would have searched Google for 'Egyptian customs' before donating the boots? The Egyptians who found it insulting need to realise that Messi is, obviously, not one of them. So there's very little, if any, reason to believe he would or should know how his gesture might be taken.

 

RESPECTING CULTURE

 

But understanding and respecting culture is a two-way street. So the offended individuals should have googled that donating boots is not strange. Plus, if you're a painter, and you want to help charity, you donate a painting. That's what you do. What's a football player supposed to donate? I suppose we can argue he could have used a jersey. Except, more than likely it would have been one he's never worn. For me, a pair of boots he actually played in, maybe even scored a goal or two in, is much more valuable. Either way, it was an unfortunate outcome to what should have been a simple matter.

In most countries of the world, people would be asking Messi if he had anything else he would like to pass off. In Jamaica, we take things passionately, too, but usually if people stereotype us (e.g., all Jamaicans are weed heads). But I know more than a few people who would be making a bid for those boots. But then, we nuh have a shoes problem. In fact, we love our shoes dearly.

So, gentle people, take my advice. Study Wikipedia before people fling dem boot affa yuh!

- Link me at daviot.kelly@gleanerjm.com