ISIS Supporters Invite Lionel Messi to Join Jihad After Goal Against Iran

Slate's soccer blog.
June 24 2014 12:06 PM

ISIS Supporters Invite Lionel Messi to Join Jihad After Goal Against Iran

Lionel Messi
Argentina's forward and captain Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring a goal against Iran.

Photo by PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images

When Lionel Messi scored a 91st-minute goal to give Argentina a victory over underdogs Iran in Saturday’s World Cup game, he seems to have picked up some unlikely fans.

Iran’s Mehr News Agency, as translated by the Brookings Institution’s Hanif Zarrabi-Kashani, reports that online supporters of ISIS, the Sunni militant group currently fighting in Iraq and Syria, congratulated Messi for defeating their Shiite enemy Iran and invited him to “join the jihadist call.”

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Many jihadist groups aren’t exactly friendly toward international soccer. This World Cup alone has seen tragic and deadly attacks on viewing parties in Nigeria and Kenya.

But ISIS supporters, known for their social media savvy, have attempted to take advantage of the game’s popularity. AFP reported recently that pro-ISIS tweeters have been hijacking the #WorldCup2014 hashtag to promote news of gains in Iraq. A couple of months ago, the French footballer Lassana Diarra was forced to deny online rumors that he had traveled to Syria to take up arms against the Assad regime.

As for Iran, despite the heartbreaking loss, the team’s better-than-expected performance against Argentina sparked a massive street party in Tehran, which seems to have made the authorities extremely uneasy.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog.