The World Cup final had the unwarranted sideshow of Salt Bae‘s gatecrashing antics, but he didn’t always have this seemingly unlimited access.
Salt Bae, real name Nusret Gokce, broke FIFA rules by touching and holding the World Cup after Argentina had beaten France on penalties in last month’s thrilling final.
The 39-year-old’s actions angered the footballing fraternity but a rarely seen picture shows he used to be treated no differently to most football fans.
Pics show Salt Bae (circled) was unable to access the pitch at the 2018 Champions League final
Salt Bae was able to access the pitch after the recent World Cup final and hold the trophy too
The photo in question was posted on social media by Offside photographer Simon Stacpoole at the 2018 Champions League final.
Following Monday’s sudden news of Gareth Bale’s retirement from all forms of football, Stacpoole tweeted a picture of the forward after his matchwinning antics at the 2018 Champions League final for Real Madrid.
Having scored twice for Real in a 3-1 win over Liverpool, Bale can be seen walking down the tunnel of the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev with a Wales flag draped over his back.
As he walks down the tunnel though, Salt Bae is just a matter of steps away from him but is being held by security – preventing him from getting any closer.
And taking to Twitter on Tuesday morning sharing the pic, Stacpoole wrote: ‘Flicking through my Gareth Bale pics & I came across this from the 2018 #UCL Final.
‘No access for Salt Bae that night, unlike Qatar four years later.’
Gareth Bale’s first goal in Real Madrid’s 2018 Champions League final win was a thing of beauty
Despite being unable to get on-pitch access back, unearthed footage of Salt Bae rubbing shoulders with stars off-the-pitch at the 2018 Champions League final emerged last month.
Clips have emerged of Salt Bae joining Real Madrid’s celebrations, posing for pictures with Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo, as well as being afforded the opportunity to hold the illustrious trophy for himself.
Unlike last month’s World Cup final with the victorious Argentinians, then Real lynchpins Ronaldo and Ramos seemed to enjoy his company – with the former laughing and joking with the steak magnate.
Ramos was also in a playful mood as he performed Salt Bae’s trademark move, pretending to sprinkle salt into the Champions League trophy.
The clip finishes with Madrid defender Marcelo also miming sprinkling salt, while Salt Bae gives a thumbs-up to the camera.
Salt Bae held the Champions League trophy after Real Madrid’s 3-1 win in 2018 over Liverpool
Cristiano Ronaldo and Salt Bae had a photo after Real’s victory at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium
Sergio Ramos and Salt Bae pretended to sprinkle salt into the Champions League trophy
It’s in stark contrast to the scenes last month, with Salt Bae now in hot bother.
FIFA had opted for a vow of silence on his antics – which have been widely criticised on social media – before finally commenting.
‘Following a review, FIFA has been establishing how individuals gained undue access to the pitch after the closing ceremony at Lusail stadium on 18 December. The appropriate internal action will be taken,’ a spokesperson told Sportsmail.
Eyebrows have been raised at the close relationship between the Turkish chef and FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Salt Bae was given a VVIP pass for the final by Infantino, despite him having no links or ties to football, the teams involved or the tournament itself.
Salt Bae broke FIFA’s rules on the World Cup trophy with his antics after the final in Qatar
The Turkish chef, real name Nusret Gokce, shared a video of him with FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Instagram last year
Gokce was able to access the pitch at the Lusail Stadium and was pictured holding the trophy and posing for pictures with the iconic golden prize.
Football’s governing body have a set of rules surrounding the World Cup trophy, with a very specific list of those allowed to touch it.
‘Its current design dates back to 1974,’ FIFA’s website reads. ‘As one of the most recognised sports symbols in the world and a priceless icon, the original Fifa 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.’
Salt Bae, who does not meet any of the criteria outlined by FIFA, has openly promoted pictures of himself with the trophy on Instagram despite the blatant rule breach.
He was also seen desperately trying to join in Argentina’s celebrations after their dramatic win over France, with a series of cringeworthy videos showing his awkward attempts to hold the trophy and pose for pictures alongside the likes of Angel di Maria and Lisandro Martinez.
Infantino has faced questions over his close relationship with the celebrity chef
In another clip which surfaced online, Gokce also appeared to be blanked by Messi in an uncomfortable exchange as he tried to get the PSG superstar’s attention before his long-awaited trophy lift at the Lusail Stadium.
The culinary celebrity responded to criticism by sharing footage that shows him meeting Messi and posing with the Argentina captain back in 2018.
After enjoying a meal with then-Man United midfielder Paul Pogba at one of Salt Bae’s restaurants in Dubai, Messi can be seen shaking hands with the restaurateur and even enjoying a hug before posing for a picture.
He captioned the post on Instagram: ‘the champion @leomessi #saltbae #saltlife #salt’.
Former Crystal Palace chairman and TalkSport pundit Simon Jordan also took aim at FIFA over Salt Bae’s cameo, accusing world football’s governing body of ‘cronyism’.
After clinching the trophy, Lionel Messi and his Argentina team-mates were joined by Salt Bae
The famous steak chef could be seen desperately attempting to join in their celebrations
FIFA are facing questions as to how Salt Bae gained access to the pitch at the Lusail Stadium
The 39-year-old also did not meet the criteria required to enter the pitch and hold the trophy
Simon Jordan felt Salt Bae’s appearance after the final was an example of ‘cronyism’ from FIFA
One clip showed Messi blanking Salt Bae as he pestered the Argentina captain afterwards
‘It defies convention, it breaks protocol,’ Jordan said on TalkSPORT. ‘It looks like cronyism, it smells like cronyism, it walks and talks like cronyism, so guess what it is? It’s bleeding cronyism.
‘It’s unprofessional. There’s no place for him. He shouldn’t have been on the pitch.’
The famous chef has developed friendships with countless celebrities since being thrust into the spotlight in 2017, when a video of his trademark salt-sprinkling techique went viral online.
Several football stars visit his restaurants on a regular basis, with England players Ben White and Kalvin Phillips seen at his Mykonos establishment after Euro 2020 last year.
Infantino, who has outlined his intention to remain FIFA president until 2031, has been regularly pictured with Salt Bae – which derives from his infamous method of salting the meat he serves at his expensive restaurants – during his tenure at the helm.
The FIFA chief visited Salt Bae’s Qatar steakhouse during the tournament.
Nusret (pictured in 2017) went viral when he posted a video of himself seasoning a piece of meat with his ‘cobra’ hand and allowing the salt to run down his forearm
David Beckham is one of countless celebrities who have dined at Nusret’s restaurants
Infantino can be heard in a video saying: ‘Football unites the world and Nusret unites the world as well.’
Pop star Rhianna also held the trophy after Germany had beaten Argentina in the final in Brazil in 2014.
World football’s governing body does not appear to have commented on Rhianna breaking the rules.
FIFA has previously granted exception to their regulations on the World Cup to Brazil’s disabled football team.
It is not clear whether Salt Bae or Rhianna were given similar exceptions by the organisation.