LONDON: FIFA are investigating how celebrity chef Salt Bae gained "undue access" to the pitch after the World Cup final where he enthusiastically posed for photos with surprised Argentina players including a bemused and irritated Lionel Messi.
Salt Bae, whose real name is Nusret Gokce, was pictured holding and kissing the trophy after Argentina beat France in Sunday's final in Qatar.
The Turkish entrepreneur was widely criticised for twice grabbing the arm of Messi, who tried to sidestep the unwanted attention.
He was also photographed with Angel di Maria, Lisandro Martinez and even seen sinking his teeth into another player's medal.
FIFA rules state the World Cup trophy can only be held by the tournament winners and the likes of FIFA officials and heads of state.
"Following a review, FIFA has been establishing how individuals gained undue access to the pitch after the closing ceremony at Lusail stadium on December 18," a spokesman told the BBC.
"The appropriate internal action will be taken."
Salt Bae, 39, owns a chain of luxury restaurants around the world including Beverly Hills in Los Angeles and London's swish Knightsbridge.
So who is he ?
Salt Bae has come a long way from being just another meme on the Internet. Nusret Gökçe, a chef, restauranteur and butcher, went viral online in 2017, when he was seen in a video seasoning meat with one arm held upright and his wrist twisted at an angle, dusting salt from his fingertips. The meme catapulted Gokce — now affectionately nicknamed Salt Bae — into superstardom, and his restaurants became a must-visit for celebrities and athletes, including David Beckham who stopped by his New York location in 2018.
After being reprimanded for his behavior, the chef made what some are calling ‘an attempt to save himself’, by sharing an old video of footballer Messi.
He posted Barcelona legend Leo Messi and Manchester United’s Paul Pogba made a joint visit to Nusr-Et’s Dubai location in November of 2018 — and missed a great opportunity to line-up by height.
His technique for preparing and seasoning meat has become an internet meme. Earlier in the World Cup, he posted a video of himself at a match sitting alongside FIFA president Gianni Infantino.