Kolkata: When the rather accomplished Lionel Messi was handed over the much-deserved FIFA World Cup, the ‘Bisht’ seemed to be a genuine precondition. The Argentinian antecedents were suitably concealed and the footprint of Qatar was sternly established.
For those not in the know, the 'Bisht' is a traditional Middle Eastern men's attire, a form of the robe.
In my limited, yet abundant, memory there is no immediate instance of a host nation imposing a symbol of their identity on what clearly is a democratic world stage. Russia did not enforce vodka shots, Germany did not insist on a Wall (Berlin) formation, South Africa did not take Shakira too seriously and the precedents are multiple. Only a deeply pampered Gulf nation, aided by a ravenous FIFA, would permit this regionalisation of what is undeniably a broader agenda.
On Messi though, as a pertinent watcher for four decades, he is indeed a pristine beauty. Perhaps not as seminal in influence as Maradona, but that is a factor of the timeline and not necessarily skillset, as Diego belonged to a less profligate era of projection. His leadership is astounding and he does come across as a sensible family man, further bolstering the pedigree.
Those of archaic vintage like me, who would have watched ‘Giants of Brazil’ would certainly swear that in terms of legend credibility, the Brazilians have a deserving head start. Which was made up, in the modern era, initially by the deeds of Kempes, Passarella and Luke in 1978, topped by the departed icon in 8 years or so. However, astute old timers still insist on Garrincha and Pele as the Harry Houdinis of the piece, magical beyond the comprehension of discernible civilization.
My larger point resides in the regimented confluence of beauty and the ‘Bisht’, or in other words, the abject subjugation of civilisation to the petrodollar, and Enfantino is clearly an agent of continuity. Which includes, however minor it may now seem, the liquor ban and the Jane Austen-like perception of profligate ladies and those who do not wish to declare gender. If Samuel P Huntington was now alive, he would be actively considering a sequel of his classic, naming it ‘The subservience of civilisations’, as the once fabled West is alarmingly cash and energy strapped.
Perhaps the last cognizable instance of local imposition was the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where a certain Major Dhyan Chand and Jesse Owens refused to pay obeisance to the rogue Adolf Hitler. Even Pyongyang, for all its fabled eccentricities, has not demonstrated any such strictures when hosting sporting foreigners, as somewhere in the innermost contours, the sanctity of global sport overrides diminutive agendas. But then, this is the Middle East, paying for the yeast of corrupt FIFA officials, and the evidence is out in the public domain.
One does harbour a romantic notion, that if Maradona was the recipient of the trophy, he would have gently refuted the ‘Bisht’, especially if it was obstructing the much-beloved national identity, a badge of every patriot. But Argentina's Messi is a new-age corporate sports icon, perhaps with half an eye on a lucrative future contract, so he will happily bow to the wishes of entitled folks who got plain lucky with oil. Truthfully, this is a happy survival formula, but one which deservedly admits itself under deserving radiological scrutiny.
As the final tidings are lovingly conducted, the 2022 FIFA World Cup must be decreed to be a resounding success, as mostly everybody had a ball and the untimely termination of migrant workers was wonderfully forgotten. The stadiums were truly luscious and quite like an upper-class cabin of Qatar Airlines, the facilities were diligently spiffy and as lavish as a Bollywood film set. But it possibly lacked a necessary iota of soul, the unassailable passion of a host nation seeking the sheerness of beauty, not the clinical precision of a polio eradication drive.
As a proud Asian, in every sense, I did not ever feel that 2022 was an edition in the continent, as it purported to be the largest banquet hall in the universe. Where the finest architects payable by man-built structures serviced by a smorgasbord of global acumen, united by desperation for top dollar. The games were truly lovable but the underlying games were surely avoidable and that may well be the messy verdict for many.
On the Charge of the Light Brigade, Crimean War, a French general had stated most poignantly that it was certainly magnificent but not war. When I saw the beauty with the ‘Bisht’ after a stunningly conquered campaign, something seemed not quite Cricket and it was possibly football.