What Argentina’s victory would mean for Messi

Friday, December 16th, 2022 11:00 | By
Messi in action against Croatia. PHOTO/Courtesy

The FIFA World Cup will end this weekend. On Sunday we will know whether France will retain the World Cup to become the third country in history, after Italy and Brazil, to do so, or if Argentina will have won it the third time. Argentina needs to win so badly if only to help crown their star player, Lionel Messi, as the world’s greatest.

Messi has won all manner of honours as a player, but the World Cup has eluded Argentina during his five appearances and under his captainship. At 35, this is likely to be his last appearance. When the next edition of the game comes up, to be hosted jointly by Canada, United States of America and Mexico, an edition that is now expanded to feature 48 teams, Messi will be 39, and most likely watching from the benches.

When the last whistle is blown and the trophy handed to the winner, the talk about 2022 World Cup will not end. Netflix hosts a four-part documentary series permanently reminding the world of the rot at the headquarters of the world’s most popular game.

The claims of corruption will not end even after the whistle. European security agencies in Brussels are investigating their MPs on accusations that some of them may have been bribed by Qatar to buy favour with Europe.

The Arab world, it seems, is deliberate in pushing their agenda to the table of conversation in the world scene and have chosen sports, more specifically, football as the entry point. For years what the Arab nations were known for was their oil and how some of them have used it as a bargaining chip at the world scene. But this influence was limited to boardroom deals in the world’s leading capitals even if the average citizen felt the impact on their pockets.

The price at the fuel pump could be felt in the pocket, but the explanation of how OPEC operated was too complex for the average individual on the streets of Kakamega, for example, to appreciate. But sports is different. Hosting the World Cup is one major coup. The images of Arabs on television screens, and this time, not in the Mosques, or chopping off the hands of one petty thief or the other is just different. The Arabs have made such a difference in the world of sports. The price of buying players has changed and probably forever, or for as long as the petrol dollar keep flowing to the European capitals.

Messi was prized screaming and kicking, tears flowing down his cheeks, to abandon his beloved Barcelona, for PSG in Paris. Qatar apparently had a say on this. Before that Manchester City had sprung from nowhere to be the team to beat in the English Premier League, and the Arab’s had a say on it.

Now the Saudis could be thinking to enter the fray. With the political ambitions in Riyadh burning, this could be a logical step. Just this week Saudi Arabia played host to Chinese leader in a lavish hospitality designed to make Washington notice. The Arab world did not stop there, other Chinese leaders are visiting the region just to make a point to Washington that geopolitical realignment project is on course. The question is what the result of the Arab visibility project, the platforms they use notwithstanding, means to the rest of the world – much of it now captured by liberal postmodern philosophy.  At the World Cup in Qatar, consuming alcohol was reduced to a minimum, talk of the rights of LGBTQ+ community was muted, revealing attire particularly of women was banished even as riots reigned in Iran over women’s dressing.

Human rights discussions took a back seat. The world enjoyed modern stadia and only muted voices asked questions regarding working and living conditions of migrant workers who put the show together.

This World Cup is not just significant for the rise of teams such as Morocco but much more. It is not just sports, it is politics, diplomacy, influence and conquest.

— The writer is the Dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

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