When Lionel Messi traveled to Egypt last month as part of a humanitarian mission, he probably did not expect to run afoul of a world-famous archaeology expert. Oops. Spanish daily outlet El Mundo is reporting that Zahi Hawass, an Egyptologist who previously served as the African country’s Minister of Antiquities, called Messi a “moron” in a TV interview following a guided tour of the Pyramids of Giza.
Messi was in Egypt in his role as ambassador for Tour N’ Cure, a campaign promoting the country as a medical destination for Hepatitis C patients. Upon landing in Egypt on February 21st, Messi met up with Hawass to see the famed Pyramids, but according to the archaeologists, the Argentinian star’s interest in the monuments was non-existent. “I think it was important to tell him about them because he has millions of followers throughout the world. […] I don’t think he was at all interested. I didn’t see any interest in his face in what I was telling him.” He also compared Messi’s visit negatively to actor Will Smith’s, saying that the movie star asked questions about antiques over a 90-minute dinner after their tour last weekend.
For his part, Messi spoke about his visit positively, remarking on the history of the Pyramids and their importance to Egypt. “It’s great to be at the Pyramids,” he said. “It was a great moment when I entered the Pyramid and touched its stones. I have touched Egypt’s greatness.”
After the report from El Mundo, Hawass immediately began to distance himself from the story, saying he never called Messi a “moron,” choosing instead to blame the translator for the miscommunication at the Giza Pyramids complex. “I think the major problem that when I was talking, the translator did not say all the magic and the mysteries of the pyramids that I was saying.” He brought up the fact he has previously praised Messi as the “most important person in the world,” before going on to say that he would never insult the Barcelona talisman. Hawass also invited Messi back to Egypt to tour other monuments, such as the Valley of Kings or the Luxor.