By Moa Jamir
Legacy completed in win, glimpses of future in defeat
“World Champions! I dreamed it so many times, I wanted it so much that I still haven't fallen, I can't believe it. Thank you very much to my family, to all who support me and also to all who believed in us…,” goes Lionel Messi’s emotional note on Instagram after winning the FIFA World Cup 2022, the elusive but crowning glory of his illustrious career.
The post was propelling towards 70 million‘ likes’ at the time of writing this and has become the most-liked post on the platform, demonstrating how Messi’s Sunday achievement has cemented and completed his football legacy.
One of the most decorated sportsmen in history; questions were always raised as to whether Messi could be considered a ‘true’ legend of the game, without the famous World Cup. Sixteen years since he made his World Cup debut, the quest for greatness -tempered with toil, sweat and excruciating heartbreak for Messi, Argentina and multitudes of fans across the globe - had the date with destiny on December 18 at Qatar’s Lusail Stadium.
In doing so, Argentina also joined the elite group of football nations with three stars or above in the World Cup, 36 years after her other famous son late Diego Armando Maradona lifted the famous 'Cup of Joy'. In completing the legacy, Messi also stepped out of Maradona's shadow. The current journey started with the 2021 Copa América, his first major trophy for his country, and a 36-game undefeated streak, before the ultimate glory.
"Argentina are the champions of the World... Messi will be sainted...Lionel Messi has conquered his final peak. Lionel Messi has shaken hands with paradise. The little boy from Rosario, Santa Fe has just pitched up in heaven," was the poetic description from commentator Peter Drury, witnessing the history in making. "The G.O.A.T debate is settled. The ultimate prize is now part of the collection. The legacy is complete,” declared a now-deleted tweet from the FIFA World Cup account, naming Messi as the Man of the match for the final. The never-ending but raging debates among football fans or those looking at the game with academic interest, is now more or less settled.
However, as a game of two competing teams, there were contrasting emotions. The French, rejuvenated by an enthralling Kylian Mbappe after a dull start, came tantalisingly close to usurping Messi’s legacy, making the final one of the greatest matches in football history in the process.
The French too were slated to make many histories in the eventful match, including two-consecutive trophies in the World Cup after decades as well as other records for the players and the coach.
In defeat, however, one got glimpses of the future in Mbappe, who has already tasted World Cup glory during the last edition in Brazil. Despite the brilliant hat-trick from Mbappe, Messi’s Argentina was destined and prevailed on penalties over France.
Mbappe’s bold, "We will return," declaration after the defeat, affirms the resoluteness while biding for his time. The historic run of Morocco also added to the spectacle.
“Today, football continues to tell its story, as always, in an enthralling way. Messi winning his first World Cup, as his trajectory deserved…” wrote Pele in a congratulatory post after the final, while further lauding Mbappe’s goal. “What a gift it was to watch this spectacle to the future of our sport. And I couldn't fail to congratulate Morocco for the incredible campaign…”
One could not concur more with the ‘King of Football.’ Indeed, football is a glorious game.
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