WHAT A GAME!
The world remains in the grip of a massive football hangover
The world is still possessed by a football hangover with articles and videos of the thrilling FIFA final match pouring out. Messi is the hero as every little detail —from his childhood, to his marriage with a childhood sweetheart, to his children, to his parents—is shared by journalists and fans on social media. His every move is embraced, his every goal since the age of 19 years re-recorded on the social media for posterity, as Argentina finds support from unknown corners of the world. In fact Argentina Football (veracity not confirmed independently) has tweeted a big thank you to 'Karala, India and Bangladesh' for the support - a tweet being circulated widely with Kerala humour happy to be 'recognised' as a third country. The 'recognition' presumably is for the delirious happiness that Kerala exhibited for Argentina's victory (along with Goa and West Bengal) with memes dressing Messi and Mbappe in Kerala's lungi!
It was a thrilling finale, the best in World Cup history without doubt. Messi and Argentina remained the favourites for most of the world outside Europe, with every goal by both sides memorable. There was a political flavour to the World Cup that excited - that it was a first in West Asia; that Morocco and an African-Arab country reached the top levels; that the World Cup went back to South America after 20 years were some of the highlights. Brazil had brought the world cup back in 2002. But there was more, much more with football exhibiting a soul that such high profile sports like cricket seem to have lost. A rare unity that brought the big legends and the fans together across the world.
The Iranian football team expressed solidarity for the women protesting against the hijab back at home by remaining silent while the country's national anthem was played. This led to tears in Tehran, where women have paid , and are paying, a huge price – with deaths and arrests— for their basic rights. It was a statement that was recognised across the world, embraced and supported. Of course the threat of reprisal by the Iranian regime reversed this show of defiance, as players cried and complied. However, their courage was praised.
Morocco impressed with its enthusiasm and skill. But also with the declared support for the Palestinians under attack in their own homes from Israel. Morocco's young football team made a second strong statement on the field by raising the Palestinian flag after their first victory. A resounding gesture that proved yet again that even if the Arab governments have shaken hands with Israel, the people still hold the cause dear to their heart. And if there was any doubt about this Palestinian flags remained aloft through the game, with fans dressed in Palestinian colours and carrying the flag of a people under siege. As a result the arrests and attacks on Palestinian civilians by Israel acquired a global dimension, a message that the people of the region carried compassion and love and empathy for their 'brothers and sisters'.
And then everyone noticed that while French President Emanuel Macron with his controversial policies was present to cheer on his team, all players were black. The sole exception was the goalie. And that France that is seen as partial to racism had to depend on an all black team is a comment that has made the rounds at different levels. Mbappe the star performer versus Argentina's Messi has evoked all kinds of analysis, sports verging on the political.
But all said and done at the end it is back to football. The thrilling final shifted attention and focus back to the game, of sheer sportsmanship and star skills. What a game with Messi etched in world memory with 'Karala' forging ahead as the primary cheerleader ! Until, if ever, India has its own world class football team.