A royal recognition of the GOAT
The incredible quality of the craftsmanship on the bisht told a story all by itself.
It is around half past two in the afternoon on the 18th of December - the Doha Metro train that I am on has just pulled into Legtaifiya station. Even before the doors open, I can hear the sonorous bellow of chants coming from outside the carriage. As the doors open, every passenger on the train is greeted with a rendition of "Muchachos" by a horde of Argentinian fans.
Most of them had travelled a lot further than I had to witness Lionel Messi's Albiceleste in action. I knew - perhaps even more so than before - that this is it. His last chance.
A few weeks prior, I was sitting in my apartment in Los Angeles, sulking alone at almost three in the morning after Argentina's shock defeat to Saudi Arabia. I wondered whether the rest of the World Cup is even worth watching. Oh, how it was.
That night, I could not imagine that soon I would be scrambling for a ticket to see the greatest footballer of my generation in the World Cup final. By the knockouts, I was already in Dhaka and the journey would be much simpler than if I was still in my adoptive home on the West Coast. This was a chance I wouldn't let by.
Almost miraculously, three days before the final, I had found a match ticket - it had me sitting almost on the roof of Lusail Stadium - but it didn't matter how far away I was from the pitch. I would watch a man I grew up with in his last dance. I booked my flights and off I went to Doha.
After an almost hellish experience getting into the ground, I finally found my seat on the top tier of Lusail Stadium. I was dripping with sweat after the three-kilometre walk, and of course, climbing twelve flights of stairs. This was coupled with pushing and shoving my way through the sea of non-ticketed fans who had somehow managed their way past the first three rounds of ticket checks.
But at the top, it didn't matter. Once I had caught my breath, I was then caught in awe by the grandest stage of them all. Two massive banners had been unrolled, bearing the flags of Argentina and France. Shortly after, a little man holding a child's hand walked out of the tunnel followed by the warriors he was leading.
The atmosphere was electric and the noise was deafening. But for the occasion, it had to be. 120 minutes and a penalty shootout filled with stress, anticipation, hope, despair, and fraught with every emotion imaginable, somehow flew by.
Argentina just became world champions, and as Messi had, in the words of the incredible Peter Drury, "rendered himself as the greatest of all time" - Lusail had erupted. Messi had just ticked the final box on his list.
The accolades were presented, and just as the Argentinian icon went up to receive his licence to collect the trophy, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, had draped him in a traditional Qatari bisht.
I could barely see what it was from the top, but on the massive screen to my right, the immaculate detail of the garment was evident for all the 88,000 spectators to see. The finely woven black fabric, embossed with a golden trim created a beautiful contrast with the blue and white on Messi's shirt.
The incredible quality of the craftsmanship on the bisht told a story all by itself. It was reserved for royalty on extremely special occasions. Traditionally, bishts are worn by men for weddings, graduations, and other events that demand the utmost attention. The highest-quality bishts, such as the one given to Messi, are made out of spun camel hair. The golden trims seen on these royal bishts are almost always made out of real gold.
It is a symbol of the highest prestige - and the Emir, taking the garment off of himself and carefully placing it on the greatest player we have ever seen speaks volumes about his stature.
Messi had just been enveloped in footballing royalty, and deservedly so. It was an incredible gesture by the Emir, signalling the respect that he has garnered from both the world of football and the State of Qatar. The Emir taking the garment off of himself and giving it to Messi to wear, shows that he recognises the footballer as a royal. As an equal.
Many critics over the last few days have been discussing Messi's wearing of the Emir's bisht as a 'ruining of a special moment', however, it is anything but. The pictures of Messi wearing the bisht and holding the trophy depicting a royal holding his symbol of reign. It is the greatest respect that Qatar can bestow upon a man who had just achieved what billions were waiting for him to do. It is nothing less than a royal recognition of the GOAT.