The 2022 FIFA World Cup final was one for the history books. The nail-biting match between Argentina and France on Sunday, 18 December, may have shaved years off our lives, but Lionel Messi lifting the cup probably made it all worth it.
The controversies that followed the final, however, did not.
From social media users hurling racist abuse at French players to Argentinian goalie Emiliano Martínez's obscene gesture, here are five controversies that marred the Qatar World Cup finals.
'Bisht' Didn't Bridge the Gap
Qatar being the first Arab country to host the World Cup, the media in the West has been overly enthusiastic in its scrutiny of the tournament. But as Messi walked onto the stage at Lusail Stadium after Argentina's win, the western media’s cultural ignorance was more evident than ever.
At his crowning moment, Messi was presented with an Arab bisht, a traditional cloak generally worn by political figures and religious leaders, by Qatar's Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
When the bisht is draped over someone as a gift, it is seen as a sign of great respect. And at that moment, there was probably no one more deserving of respect than Messi.
But instead of looking at this as a confluence of cultures, several western media organisations dismissed the gifting as a "bizarre act." While The Telegraph headlined that it "ruined the greatest moment in World Cup history," Mirror complained that the bisht forced Messi to cover up Argentina's jersey.
The Telegraph, however, changed its headline after massive outrage.
Twitter, too, was rife with racist comments about the attire, with some users disrespectfully comparing the robe with lingerie and others accusing Qatar of "stealing the limelight."
It appears that the nuance of the gesture was lost on the West!
Deepika's Attire – Yes, We're Still There
Speaking of clothes offending people, actress Deepika Padukone, who was caught in the 'Besharam Rang' controversy back home in India, was slammed on social media for the attire she wore at the trophy unveiling ceremony at the World Cup. But this time, netizens were upset that she was "fully clothed."
While her fans complained that the outfit – designed by Louis Vuitton – didn't do justice to her as the first Indian to unveil the trophy, others, especially right-wing Twitter users, accused her of dressing up "modestly" to pander to the Arab world.
Deepika was in the eye of the storm recently for her "saffron-coloured" bikini in the song 'Besharam Rang' in Pathan, alongside Shah Rukh Khan.
The actress, however, took to Instagram on Monday, 20 December, to say that her outfit at the World Cup final was "perfect" for the occasion.
French Players Face Racist Abuse – All Too Familiar?
After their loss to Argentina on Sunday, the social media profiles of three French players – Kingsley Coman, Aurélien Tchouaméni, and Randal Kolo Muani – were flooded with racist comments. Many users stooped so low as to use monkey and banana emojis while referring to these players.
Meta announced that these comments have now been removed from its platforms.
Coman and Tchouaméni were targeted for missing decisive penalties in the shootout against Argentina. The French national team on Tuesday, 20 December, condemned the abuse.
Coman's club, Bayern Munich, also issued a statement on Twitter, saying, "The FC Bayern family is behind you, King. Racism has no place in sport or our society."
But all of this feels far too familiar.
Last year, England players Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford, and Jordan Sancho were also subjected to racial abuse online after they missed penalty kicks for England in the Euro 2020 shootout against Italy.
In fact, following France's Euro 2020 knockout, Kylian Mbappe, who gave it his best shot at the 2022 World Cup final, had spoken up about racism in the sport, saying he wanted to leave the national team at one point.
Women Football Fans Are Fans Too!
As soon as the World Cup got over, Twitter users (read men) were quick to point out women fans' supposed lack of knowledge of football. Sexist comments that claimed women watched football only because "hot men were playing" were rife, unsurprisingly.
Even if some fans – of all genders, FYI – watch football only once every four years, there's no rulebook that says they can't enjoy it.
In fact, football "puritanists" must note that most women are dissuaded from playing football (or sports in general) at a very young age in many cultures.
So, not only are you stereotyping when you say that "women don't understand football," but you're also ignoring the systemic oppression that women face when it comes to sports.
Martinez & His 'Obscene' Gesture
Argentinian goalie Emiliano Martínez deserved that Golden Glove, but his fans definitely did not deserve the obscene gesture he made at the closing ceremony.
Martínez held the glove close to his crotch, and in that gesture, hypermasculinity triumphed again.
The image of the same went viral on social media, and many were quick to condemn it.
Though it's unclear whether he would face disciplinary action for the same, Martínez, while speaking to radio station La Red, said, "I did it because the French booed me. Pride does not work with me."