After a month of walking, talking, breathing football, it's time to bid goodbye to the cup of joy.
After being transported close to heaven by the heady magic weaved by masters of the footballing universe in Doha, it’s time for us mortals to return to earth – and to our mundane, boring lives.
Imagine a life without mesmerising Lionel Messi or French wonderboy Kylian Mbappe, Imagine no more debating whether this will be Neymar’s last World Cup, or how unfortunate it was to see legend Ronaldo make a quiet exit from the world’s greatest stage.
It’s been been a month since the world stopped turning on its axis, moving instead to the flight of the Al Rihla ball and Doha became the centre of the universe, and getting back to ‘normal' is going to be one big ask for many of us.
After sleepless nights of sitting glued to the telly, it will be hard to come to terms with thoughts of “what do I do this evening?”
There will also be no more frantic checking up on match schedules, no more reading up on expert analysis, no more stocking up on chips and cola, no more making plans to watch the games at the super fun football fan zones across Dubai with like-minded footie-addicts.
Everything will once again seem so dull, so routine… so ordinary.
Given the excitement of recent weeks, this was bound to happen.
For the past month or so, work, family, friends and foes have taken a back seat to the happenings in Qatar.
Invitations from friends to ‘go out' for a movie or dinner were turned down with an incredulous “Don't' you know Argentina is playing tonight?”
Earthly matters held no attraction for many of us during this period. After all, what on earth could be more important than a Messi weaving his way through a maze of players to deliver a killer pass, or a Olivier Giroud doing a fine pirouette to score a breathtaking goal or two?
For me, personally, this World Cup has been a sort of homecoming in more ways than one.
Messi winning the greatest trophy in football has helped restore my faith (and probably of mankind) that sometimes, the good guy does get to win.
More often than not, in recent times we have seen the opposite come true.
Secondly, I got to see two fantastic World Cup matches at two beautiful stadiums in Doha, screaming my lungs out with thousands of similarly delirious fans.
Thirdly, my visit was in a sense a homage to my younger self from 20 years ago, when I set out from my home and family to make a life for myself in a foreign land. It was the ultimate joy for me to reconnect with friends from those days, friends who were like family when I worked in Qatar, friends who have still remained like family to me, as we seemed to pick up right from where we had left things two decades ago before I left exchanged Doha for Dubai on a hot July in 2002.
Indeed, life had come full circle for me!
And what can one say about how this World Cup that has caught the imagination of the world like no other.
About a month ago, when the first kick of the ball was made at the Al Bayt Stadium, there were many who wondered how the Arab world’s first World Cup would shape up.
Today, as the Lusail Stadium in Qatar stands silent after reverberating to the humungous screams of footie fanatics who were witness to the stupendous final between Argentina and France, we can say it loud and clear - the World Cup has been a massive success.
Not just that, it has also shaken the world order in football. It all began with mercurial Saudi Arabia causing the biggest upset of the tournament by slaying mighty Argentina in the first round, followed by Morocco playing their hearts out to fell two European giants – Spain and Portugal enroute to a scintillating semi-finals against France. Not to be outdone, Asian powerhouses Japan ran themselves to the ground as they lit up the tournament with their fast, exciting brand of football, while other African teams such as Senegal and Ghana made their powerful roar heard in all corners of the world.
From South American flair to European finesse and African brilliance, this World Cup has given us much more than just football.
In a way, this World Cup has seen the coming of age of the Arab and African nations - not just on the football field, but in terms of their identity too.
In the coming days, as all the excitement, the glory and the pain of the past weeks dies down, doubtless we will all face some major withdrawal symptoms.
However, even as we indulge in some wistful nostalgia for days gone by, we can take solace in this quote by Cesare Pavese: “We do not remember days, we remember moments.”
Yes, the World Cup has indeed given us many moments of magic, many moments of brilliance which will stay with us long after the final kick has been made in Doha. Enough to tide us through the weeks, months and years before the world’s greatest gladiators line up once again in the Americas in 2026 for another fight to the finish.
Till then, all one can say is thank you for the memories, thank you for the magic, thank you Qatar for the cup of joy!
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