It has been a decade since Lionel Messi auctioned a gold cast of his left foot to help victims of the deadly 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
The generous fundraising effort began after Messi, now 36, received his fourth consecutive Ballon d’Or in 2012, an award given to the world’s best soccer player that year, which he received during a ceremony held in January 2013.
Messi’s immortalized left foot
To help celebrate the moment, the Leo Messi Foundation, a foundation Messi established in 2007, teamed up with famous Japanese jeweler Ginza Tanaka, who reportedly flew to Spain in late 2012 to cast the soccer star’s left foot in gold.
Tanaka returned to Japan soon after to finish the sculpture, which was made from pure gold bars and weighed around 25 kilograms (55.1 pounds). The finished product was then aptly called the “Golden Foot,” which should not be confused with the soccer award of the same name.
Unveiling the “Golden Foot” and other works
Messi’s signed “Golden Foot” sculpture was unveiled in Tokyo in March 2013 and auctioned off at the price of $5.25 million.
Although the Argentinian soccer star could not attend the unveiling event, his brother Rodrigo was reportedly present. Impressed by the 10-inch sculpture, he told the media at the time, “You can see each line on the foot. It’s an impressive piece of work.”
Besides the famous “Golden Foot,” Messi, who
played for FC Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain before joining Inter Miami, also teamed up with Tanaka to make other items for the auction, including a “Golden Foot Plate” priced at $94,500 and a mini version of the “Golden Foot” worth $42,000. Tanaka reportedly produced 50 “Golden Foot Plates” and 100 “Golden Foot Minis.”
All for charity
In a press release distributed around the time of the unveiling, FC Barcelona announced that part of the proceeds from the sales would be donated to the victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region of Japan.
The incident was ignited by a powerful 9.1 magnitude earthquake that struck about 130 kilometers (approximately 81 miles) east of the Tohoku region’s largest city, Sendai, on March 11, 2011. Moments after that, the region was hit by a tsunami with waves of up to 40 meters (approximately 132 feet).
Over 15,000 people reportedly died from the incident and more than 450,000 residents in the region were displaced.
The earthquake and tsunami also caused other incidents in the country, including the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes.