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FACT CHECK: Altered photo shows Lionel Messi holding Israeli flag


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FACT CHECK: Altered photo shows Lionel Messi holding Israeli flag
The original photo has Messi holding a placard showing the name of a retailer that is also his official and exclusive worldwide partner and licensee

Claim: A photo shows Argentine-born football player Lionel Messi supposedly holding the Israeli flag. 


Why we fact-checked this: The altered image has gained 850 comments, 780 shares, 8,600 likes, and 664,200 views as of writing.

The photo was posted on X (formerly Twitter) on November 1 by user Gad Saad (@GadSaad), a verified account holder with over 765,000 followers. Saad is a marketing professor based in Canada and a published author.

The photo circulated amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Adult, Male, Man

The facts: The photo showing Messi holding the national flag of Israel was digitally altered. This image does not appear anywhere on Messi’s official and verified Instagram account.

In the original photo, Messi was holding a placard with text that reads: “Icons.com signed by the world’s best.”

Face, Happy, Head
SPORTS ICON. Football player Lionel Messi holds a placard showing Icons.com is a retailer of signed sports memorabilia.

Icons.com is a retailer of signed sports memorabilia and is Messi’s official and exclusive worldwide signing partner and licensee. It offers items such as jerseys and shoes signed by the football star.

Icons.com also has partnerships with Premier League clubs such as Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester, among others.

Israel-Hamas disinformation: As the war between Israel and Hamas continues, altered images and false claims have spread rapidly on social media to push certain narratives and sow confusion. On X, 74% of viral disinformation came from “verified accounts.”  (READ: What you need to know about disinformation in the Israel-Hamas war)

Since Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel on October 7, over 8,500 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis have been killed, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s November 1 report. (TIMELINE: Conflict between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza)

As Israeli troops advanced towards Gaza City, the United Nations on October 31 called for an immediate ceasefire and for unimpeded humanitarian access to “meet the urgent needs created by the catastrophe unfolding in Gaza.”

“Civilians have borne the brunt of the current fighting from the outset. Protection of civilians on both sides is paramount and must be respected at all times,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement

Rappler has debunked several false claims about the Israel-Hamas conflict:

 – James Patrick Cruz/Rappler.com

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. You may also report dubious claims to #FactsFirstPH tipline by messaging Rappler on Facebook or Newsbreak via Twitter direct message. You may also report through our Viber fact check chatbot. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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