Salt Bae has also disqualified from the US Open Cup after making headlines for the wrong reasons during the World Cup 2022.
Self-proclaimed ‘Salt Bae’ has broken his silence on a controversial incident during Qatar 2022 late last year, confirming he will not be stepping onto another FIFA World Cup pitch again.
“It was a combination of my love of Argentina and my excitement,” he told The Times through an interpreter.
“I love Argentina; I’ve lived there. I went to support them. Many of [the team] have come to the restaurant. I didn’t feel a stranger. It was a special moment. I can’t do anything about the reason I was there, but I would never, ever step on the World Cup pitch again,” Salt Bae, real name Nusret Gökçe, added.
“There were two billion people watching the World Cup… How many people are speaking about me? Five billion. The whole world,” he told the British daily, which described his tone as “embarrassed”.
The Turkish butcher and internet sensation found his way onto the pitch at Lusail Stadium as players celebrated with family members following Argentina’s World Cup victory.
The Argentines defeated France 4-2 in arguably one of the best and most intense final World Cup matches of all time, which also marked Lionel Messi’s first ever trophy at the tournament.
However, Salt Bae was heavily criticised online for “pestering” the man of the hour for a photo, in which the Argentine appeared to be clearly uninterested.
The Turkish salt sprinkler gave Messi a touch on the shoulder while donning his trademark sunglasses. The star player briefly turned around, but appeared to look annoyed and shook him off.
Salt Bae ignored the warning and persisted in harassing Messi. He eventually succeeded in getting a photo with him before then sharing the image with his 52.3 million Instagram followers.
The 39-year-old also posed alongside other team members, including Alexis MacAllister, Paulo Dybala, Nicolas Otamendi, Angel di Maria, and Leandro Paredes.
However, Salt Bae failed to stop there.
Reportedly valued at a staggering $21.3 million, the 18-carat gold World Cup trophy found itself in Gökçe’s hands and even received a kiss from him. The trophy also fell victim to the butcher’s trademark move as he pretended to sprinkle some salt on it.
Social media users rushed online to point out the “cringe” behaviour of the Turkish celebrity for his incessant attitude towards securing a photo with Messi as well as “basically trying to wrestle the trophy away from Lisandro Martinez.”
One such Twitter user provided a video with a compilation of multiple attempts exhibited by Salt Bae for “clout”.
Clarifying why he made the move onto the pitch, the internet sensation said: “I didn’t go on the pitch with the purpose of advertising; I just felt like it. Then it was a bit of a surprise. There were at least another 1,000 people on the pitch but when they show the video they make out it was just me.”
“I never, ever wanted to overshadow anything. I didn’t like the attention. I didn’t kick anyone, steal anything.”
FIFA had confirmed back in December that Salt Bae was in fact not permitted to be on the pitch during celebrations after the World Cup final at Lusail Stadium.
As per official FIFA rules, the 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.
In the wake of the criticism, the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, commonly known as the US Open Cup, tweeted in December “Salt Bae is hereby barred from the 2023 @opencup Final.”