The Beautiful Game

Rakshat Hooja

Rakshat Hooja lives in Jaipur. In his late thirties, he is still trying to figure out what to do in life. Currently, he is working on a project to set up a community college in Jaipur. He loves watching sports and reading and discussing about politics.

                                            The Beautiful Game


Argentina are the new World Champions, Messi the greatest of our era, France can hold their head high, and football is the most beautiful of all games. 


These are the facts. The emotions that any football lover went through last evening can not ever be put down on paper. As a commentator said, if the script of the 2022 FIFA world cup final between France and Argentina had been submitted for a fantasy movie it would have been rejected for being too unrealistic. 


Amazing as the story of the match itself was, and it was a rollercoaster tale of skill, brilliance, heart, joy, agony, and joy; Alvarez ran 13.6 km before being substituted, Varne fell to the ground as he was replaced after making last of his numerous clearances; it is a sense of  history and a question of destiny that made this an epic to be remembered. 


In 1986, I was in Beneras. A kid getting hooked to football, who watched Maradona's Argentina give up a 2-0 lead in the final. Voller equalised in the 85th minute, before Argentina won the world cup with a Barruchaga goal within two minutes. Then, like all true Indians who instinctively adopt a world cup team as if it's their own, I was supporting West Germany. But for kids such heartbreaks are short lived! It was only later in life that I realised that I had seen a historic match and the cementing of the legacy of one of the greatest players ever.


36 years later, last evening, the doggies and the family put on the TV at home to see Argentina play some mesmerizing football and run up a 2-0 lead again, via Messi and De Maria. Such was the control of the Argentine side that France did not have a touch of the ball in the opponents D in the first half let alone a shot on Target. By half-time it seemed that the one trophy that had eluded Messi in his career would finally be his in his last world cup appearance. 


It's called half time for a reason - there is still more to come or as we say in India, khani abhi khatam nahi Hui hai. 


Midway through the second half the commentators started talking about how Argentina had started tormenting France with a certain swagger and the defending champions were hardly able to get control of the ball. And suddenly, against the run of play, France had a penalty that Mbappe converted.


The dreaded commentators curse had hit and it would hit again for France to equalise with more  Mbappe brilliance. A volley to remember for the ages. Game on and France in the ascendency.  And then Messi turned it on its head again to again give Argentina the lead in extra time, only to see France level it via a Mbappe penalty again! And Argentina then won it in penalties. Martinez making a save and Messi and his teammates, all being on target. And we could all breathe, celebrate and may even shed a tear. 


Messi dropped to the ground as teammates piled on him with joy. Among them was an interloper, Aguero, who ran in from the stands wearing Otamendi's shirt. Messi's strike partner and Maradona's son in law, Aguero, retired from football last year after a sudden diagnosis of a heart condition. As he carried Messi on his shoulders with the team singing with them and the wall of light blue and white supporters in front of them who could argue that destiny is not real. 


This was the greatest world cup final I have seen. Maybe the best game ever. And this time I am thankful for having witnessed history and seen Messi, one of the greatest to have ever laced up, achieve his and Argentina's dream.


RIP Maradona and well done Messi and Argentina.


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