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Messi doppelganger in Egypt becomes local celebrity

Islam Mohammed Ibrahim Battah, an Egyptian with a striking resemblance to Barcelona’s forward Lionel Messi, poses for a photograph with boys, in the Nile Delta city of Zagazig, north of Cairo, Egypt on Mar 23, 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Sherif Fahmy)


(Updated: )

ZAGAZIG, Egypt: They may not be meeting the real Lionel Messi, but Islam Battah’s resemblance to the Barcelona footballer is so uncanny, that the children at an orphanage in the Egyptian city of Zagazig swarm around him in delight anyway.

Seeing the excitement his presence causes at such events, the 27-year-old Egyptian painter is happy to pose as the Argentine, wearing a Barcelona shirt and joining in a game of football.

“When I started growing my beard, my friends told me that I look like Messi. When I grew my beard even more, the resemblance was clearer,” he said.

“The kids’ happiness with the resemblance between me and Messi is indescribable. When you make someone happy, God rewards you. I wanted to share this happiness with them,” he added.

One of the children to play soccer with Battah was Ammar Ashry.

“I was so happy and felt that Messi is coming to play with us,” he said.

“Now, I really want to see Mohamed Salah,” he added, referring to Liverpool’s Egyptian forward.

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