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  Opinion   Columnists  23 Dec 2022  Shobhaa De | Forget Messi mania… Who will win WC cricket 2023?

Shobhaa De | Forget Messi mania… Who will win WC cricket 2023?

Irreverent, provocative, opinionated... Shobhaa De has been challenging status quo for four decades... and is at her best when she punctures inflated egoes. Readers can send feedback to
Published : Dec 24, 2022, 12:05 am IST
Updated : Dec 24, 2022, 12:05 am IST

The time to dig into a juicy Argentinian steak has ended on December 18

Argentina's Lionel Messi holds the trophy after winning the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Sunday, Dec.18, 2022. (Photo: AP)
 Argentina's Lionel Messi holds the trophy after winning the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Sunday, Dec.18, 2022. (Photo: AP)

Uffff! Such a relief to get back to a post-FIFA world! I, for one, don’t want to read a single extra line on Messi or Mhappe. It’s done and dusted, guys. It’s over! And Miami is still four years away! Let’s get back to daal-chawal. The time to dig into a juicy Argentinian steak has ended on December 18. If you missed the moment, it’s gone! By this time next week, nobody will care a bit about who won the golden boot, the golden glove, golden trophy, golden anything… Hearts have resumed beating at the normal pace. Only some diehard football fanatics are still discussing the penalty shootout in breathless tones. The others have swiftly moved on to the Next Best Thing, leaving the most famous man in the universe to grab some chill time with his family. As for yours truly, after slaving over a hectic FIFA Finals party at home for a select few diehard fans of the Beautiful Game, I could do with a week at an exotic spa in Buenos Aires.

I am done with the Messi Mania… There must be millions like me who started to take a great deal of interest in all things Messi, after he won the Cup for his country and walked into immortality (“Captained an era…”, declared football legend Ronaldo). But I am stuck on trivia! The things I discovered about the richest athlete on earth -- Rs 611 crores on field earnings, Rs 448 crores, off field. Rs 15 crores for a single branded Instagram post. Multiple luxury cars, including a Rs 300-crore Ferrari. Of course, he has a yacht, and a private jet to take him to his exotic homes across the world. And, according to unverified reports, Messi is up for sainthood, too, given his extraordinary charitable endeavors. Gushed one report: Messi educates 40 million children and is one of the highest donors globally and has single-handedly built 9,847 schools in 189 countries. What about India, Messi ji??? Build a few schools here, also, na? Claims another report on Messi: 48 per cent of Unesco’s charitable trusts’ income is generated by Messi. I get the feeling I am the only ill-informed, totally ignorant person who had no clue about Messi’s magnanimity! If even half these stats are true, it elevates Messi almost to messiah status. His net worth is pegged at a stupefying Rs 4,960 crores. Just think about it -- I mean, he’s made so much lolly just by kicking a ball around! What does Messi the Superman eat for breakfast? Let me guess -- it has to be millets. 2023 has been declared the “Year of the Millet” by our far-thinking Prime Minister. A lot can happen over millets, Si???

I am frankly more interested in knowing the fate of the buxom blond Argentinian supporter with an impressive chest who dared to bare sab kuch at the finals inside a packed to the gills stadium. Isko kehtey hai guts! Even our very own Urfi Javed has not pulled such a stunt so far, even though she has come pretty close. Well… she has several cricket matches to choose from. What was the BB (buxom blond) thinking??? This is Qatar, honey, not Rio or Buenos Aires. Non-Qatari women are obliged to dress modestly as per Qatari law, and cover their knees and shoulders at all times, or face arrest. No cleavage, no tight clothes. That’s the dress code even for singers/performers like Nora Fatehi, who didn’t dare show more than her finger nails during her act. Even our lissome Deepika Padukone was dressed in an ugly leather harness, for Chrissake! And here was the BB stripping and vigorously shaking her breasts before being hauled off by burly security chaps, as onlookers gaped. Nobody knows what happened to her after that. She has not been heard of since. Is she languishing in a dungeon somewhere in the desert? Has she been deported? Or is she even alive? Had this incident taken place in any other part of the world, one could have said the woman was drunk or on something. In dry Qatar, that isn’t even an option. Safe to assume she was high on her team’s success and wished to show her appreciation. Since her identity has not been disclosed, the only thing revealed so far are her breasts!

The subtexts and side stories of such staggeringly amplified events are generally far more interesting than the stats and factoids. Fans may mix up who scored how many goals during the nail-biting penalty shootouts, but what will stay longer are the emotions connected to the matches. I was interested to learn that Messi wore bespoke golden boots (Adidas X Speedportal Leyenda) at the finals, which had the names of his three children and their birth dates, along with his wife’s name, etched into the sides. There’s a nod to the blue and white colours of his country as well. This is marketing at its most creative. For a man who earns Rs 85 lakhs a day, and owns a chain of hotels, plus a clothing line, I wonder what sort of a team manages Brand Messi, and how does he take the final call on green-lighting a deal. What criteria does he adopt? When does he even have the time or bandwidth to process all the offers raining down on him? When does he go to his homes in Ibitza, Barcelona and Miami? Or relax on his yacht?

Meanwhile, our desi sports legend, Sachin Tendulkar, perhaps feeling a little left out during the raging Messi mania, promptly made a few connections of his own by posting his picture during the 2011 cricket World Cup run. Since both players wear a number 10 jersey for their national teams, and Sachin’s body language in the graphic matches Messi’s, fans were delighted by the reminder, in which Sachin went on to ask his followers who will be the Cricket World Cup champion in 2023.

Our wonderful women’s hockey team came back dancing after defeating Spain and lifting the prestigious FIH Women’s Nation’s Cup 2022 a day before the FIFA final. Did anybody notice or care??? Now that’s a success story worth sharing…

Tags: lionel messi, fifa, nora fatehi, deepika padukone, sachin tendulkar, urfi javed