FIFA gets salty after ‘Salt Bae’ steals spotlight with messy World Cup antics

Source: TND/Twitter/@DailyLoud/Instagram/@nusr_et

The world watched as Argentina’s national football team celebrated its FIFA World Cup win on the pitch with hugs and cheers, but an unexpected figure is facing repercussions for butting in on the fun.

Cameras captured celebrity restaurant owner Nusret Gokce, better known as ‘Salt Bae’, hassling star Lionel Messi for a photo as Argentina’s team and close supporters tried to celebrate their momentous win last Sunday.

In the footage, Gokce can be seen insistently grabbing Messi’s arm as the soccer player repeatedly tries to walk away.

salt bae

Salt Bae’s efforts to snap a picture with Lionel Messi despite the star’s disinterest paid off.

Gokce also later shared videos of himself holding and kissing the World Cup trophy while posing alongside other Argentinian players.

Officially, only a select group of people are allowed to touch and hold the trophy, including former winners of the FIFA World Cup and heads of state.

Social media users have since lashed out at Gokce for holding the trophy and inserting himself into the team’s moment of triumph, mocking him for his attention-seeking behaviour.

He now faces formal repercussions.

The US Open Cup tweeted it is banning the celebrity chef from the competition’s 2023 final.

FIFA has also indicated it will look into how Gokce gained access to the pitch.

“Following a review, FIFA has been establishing how individuals gained undue access to the pitch after the closing ceremony at Lusail Stadium on December 18,” a spokesperson said.

“The appropriate internal action will be taken.”

Following online backlash for harassing Messi after his win, Gokce posted a video with the player reportedly filmed in 2018 in what may have been an attempt to assure followers the two are friendly.

Friends in high places

While Gokce appears to have no close professional or personal links to Argentina’s team or players, he has made several social media posts showcasing a chummy relationship with FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

One Instagram video appears to show Infantino introducing Gokce to the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatari Crown Prince Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani and Malaysian King Al-Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah.

Source: Instagram/@nusr_et

It is possible Infantino also gave Gokce access to the World Cup pitch, but it is unclear what consequences he might face if this is true.

Infantino has already courted controversy this year for his response to public backlash over 2022 World Cup host country Qatar’s record on human rights, especially in regards to migrant workers and LGBTQI+ people.

He appeared to tell media he identified with several minority groups because he was bullied as a child for having red hair and freckles.

“Today I have strong feelings. Today I feel Qatari, I feel Arab, I feel African, I feel gay, I feel disabled, I feel a migrant worker,” he said.

Since the World Cup final, Infantino has lashed out at international broadcasters for offering “100 times less” for the rights to the Women’s World Cup than the men’s.

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