By Anil Raturi
The 2022 World Cup final match between Argentina and France was thrilling! Arguably, it was one of the greatest finals ever! Two goals down, just when it seemed unlikely that France would be able to make a comeback in the game, Kylian Mbappe, the young and talented French Captain converted a penalty to make it 2-1.Just 97 seconds later, Mbappe volleyed in another goal making it 2-2! Since then the game became a seesaw of nerves! The match was compelled to go into extra time! The Argentinian Great Lionel Messi, who had earlier scored the first goal through a penalty and then provided a magical assist to Angel Di Maria for the spectacular second goal, scored the seemingly clinching third goal making it 3-2! However, reigning champion France was not giving up and just two minutes before the end of extra time, Mbappe converted another penalty to make it 3-3! Soccer fans in the stadium in Qatar and all over the world went into a tizzy!
Finally, the Argentinians held their nerves to claim the Championship, winning 4-2 through tiebreaker penalties!
Such was the fans’ obsession that the Soccer World Cup 2022 surpassed all previous records of TV and digital viewership!
All sports are interesting! But what makes Soccer so special? What is the secret of its spellbinding magic that attracts fans and keeps them enraptured like no other sport? Is it the simplicity of its rules or is there something far deeper and primordial about it that fascinates us? The soccer player is allowed to touch the ball with his feet or any other part of the body except the hand and arm. This simple rule unleashes a conjuring effect in humans when they chase the football! It is spectacular to watch as players jostle for the ball shedding sweat, blood and tears! Our savage propensity for violence is curbed and sublimated by the rules of this game of the modern civilised world, yet it provides enough room for the flow of man’s instinctive energy! Soccer matches provide vicarious pleasure to the fans by satisfying their primordial urge to physically excel and live a spectacular and heroic life! Soccer provides an instinctive language to humanity! The Japanese, Moroccan, French or Argentinian soccer players may not understand each other’s language, yet, if a football is given to them and a field, they’ll immediately know what do with it! They all understand the common language of this great game! In its remarkable moments of beauty, the game has the ability to transcend the narrow boundaries of Nation-State and Race. Joining all humanity into a fraternity to which at that moment nothing else matters except the love for this beautiful game! When, before the end of the final match, the French Coach substituted Rabiot with Fofana, it was interesting to observe that except the goalkeeper, Lloris, the remaining ten players of the French team were all non-whites! Who looked very different from the traditional Gauls! Similarly, thousands of Arabs in the stadium wore Argentinian shirts to show their solidarity with the Latin Americans! In the ultimate analysis, Lionel Messi and the Argentinians deserved the Crown. The French lost the finals but won our hearts through their valiant display of football. Of course, the greatest winner was the game of soccer! The spirit that emanated reminds us of the Olympic motto “Swifter, Higher, Stronger!”
(Anil Raturi is a retired IPS officer)