An Iranian man who bears an uncanny resemblance to superstar footballer Lionel Messi was almost thrown in jail this weekend for looking like the FC Barcelona player and causing a major public disturbance.
Reza Paratesh’s appearance in public proved a hit among passersby and sightseers who stopped to take photos with the man, after he decided to dress up like famous footballer in Messi’s trademark No. 10 Barcelona jersey, and pose for people throughout the Iranian city of Hamedan.
“The first time that I seriously decided to take a photo with sports clothes and introduce myself as the double of Messi, my father encouraged me—he said ‘do it’,” he said, according to AFP (via BBC). At the urging of his dad, Paratesh says that he began cutting his hair and growing a beard to resemble Messi.
The Iranian man says he had no idea how popular he’d be, and soon attracted a large gathering of people who crowded around him for pictures. To preserve the public order and clear traffic, local authorities rushed into the crowd and escorted Paratesh to a police station.
Paratesh says that despite his encounter with the police, he’s happy with the turnout and plans to learn some football tricks to better emulate his sports hero.
“Now people really see me as the Iranian Messi and want me to mimic everything he does. When I show up somewhere, people are really shocked,” he said. “I’m really happy that seeing me makes them happy and this happiness gives me a lot of energy.”
Since the news of his arrest broke, Paratesh’s resemblance to Messi has landed him modeling contracts and media interviews.
Despite his popularity among Iranians, we doubt that any Iranian women will be allowed to parade around as a lookalikes of Alex Morgan any time soon—women aren’t even allowed to watch the sport.