Doha, Qatar – Outside the Souq Art Centre in Doha’s popular Souq Waqif market, Qatar-based artist Khaled Almesawy has been inundated with orders from residents and football World Cup visitors for his unique calligraphy sketches of Argentina’s superstar Lionel Messi.
From Dumyat city in Egypt, Almesawy said people were amazed not only by his Messi portraits but also his Arabic-inspired calligraphy art – especially foreigners who were seeing this art form for the first time.
“He’s the most popular footballer who people want me to draw because everyone loves Messi,” the Egyptian artist told Al Jazeera, while in the middle of sketching one of his many Messi calligraphy-based portraits using only the Argentinian’s name written in Arabic.
“I love their reaction, especially of foreigners … they have been sharing my sketches on Instagram and other social media,” he said.
Keeping his drawings of Messi company was another sketch of Argentina’s legendary Diego Maradona, who was the artist’s all-time favourite player before Messi took the footballing world by storm some 17 years ago.
According to Almesawy, aside from the admiration people have for Messi’s genius on the pitch, they are also excited to see him in the flesh and possibly, finally, winning a World Cup.
From the number of people wearing Messi football jerseys to those chanting his name and waving flags bearing his image, often next to Maradona, no other player at this tournament has been as popular as Messi.
Despite multiple trophies and accolades, the World Cup has alluded Messi since he first made an appearance at the tournament in 2006. Sunday’s upcoming final against reigning champions France is likely to be the 35-year-old Argentinian’s last chance to win that title, after playing in a total of five World Cups.
Messi and Argentina’s last World Cup final was in 2014 in Brazil, where they lost 1-0 to Germany in extra time.
‘It’s been really good’
Almesawy, who has been living in Qatar for 25 years, told Al Jazeera how good the FIFA World Cup has been for him and for the country he calls home, as football fever and tourism have gripped the diminutive gulf nation over the past several weeks.
“I wish the World Cup would could take place every four years in Doha,” he said. “It’s been really good for me personally and professionally,” he said.
Since the World Cup kicked off last month, Almesawy said he has not taken a single day off. Despite the gruelling schedule, he said his art was “everything” to him.
“I come in at 3-4pm (12:00-13:00 GMT) and I’m supposed to leave at 10pm (19:00 GMT). But I just keep drawing for hours after,” he said.
“It’s my life. I love what I do.”