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Salt Bae hit by US cup final ban and Fifa probe after World Cup antics

Celebrity chef facing PR nightmare after getting his hands on the famous gold trophy
Salt Bae puts his hand on the shoulder of Argentina's Lionel Messi end of the Qatar World Cup final match at the Lusail Stadium, 18 December 2022 (AP)
Salt Bae puts his hand on the shoulder of Argentina's Lionel Messi at the end of the Qatar World Cup final match at the Lusail Stadium, 18 December 2022 (AP)

For a decade, the Turkish chef and butcher known as Salt Bae has proved the adage that all publicity is good publicity. Yet after his antics at the World Cup final, the meme made flesh is putting that theory under severe strain.

On Sunday, the chef caused a scandal by mixing among Argentinian players celebrating their win against France in the World Cup final at Qatar's Lusail Stadium.

He was filmed holding and kissing the trophy and making a sprinkling gesture, a move he became famous for when sprinkling salt on meat. Salt Bae appeared happy to manhandle Lionel Messi and other victorious Argentina stars in order to get the photos he wanted.

In one video, he steadfastly ignored a player's baby as it reached out at the glistening gold trophy.

In response to the furore, the US Open Cup tweeted that it was banning Salt Bae, whose real name is Nusret Gokce, from the domestic football competition's final. There's no indication that he ever intended to attend the game.

Fifa on Thursday said it was investigating the chef's access and apparent breach of protocol.

"As one of the most recognised sports symbols in the world and a priceless icon, the original Fifa World Cup Trophy can only be touched and held by a very select group of people, which includes former winners of the Fifa World Cup and heads of state," the football governing body said.

Fifa added that it is currently investigating how individuals, including Salt Bae, had "gained undue access to the pitch after the closing ceremony at Lusail Stadium on 18 December.

"The appropriate internal action will be taken," Fifa said.

Argentina beat France on Sunday in a penalty shootout and won their third World Cup.

Salt Bae owns luxury steakhouses in several countries, and has served astronomically priced food and beverages to various celebrities, officials and footballers.

In November, Salt Bae posted a video of himself with Fifa President Gianni Infantino during the World Cup. Since then, another video from January 2021 was widely shared in which Salt Bae slices and seasons a steak for Infantino at his restaurant in Dubai.

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