The night is almost over, but the celebrations refuse to take a break. Every Argentinian is on FaceTime, their cries of joy mixing with the hooting of Malayalis. This game — already said to be the best ever in a World Cup — had been nerve-wracking. The whole stadium had lived a lifetime in that last hour when Kylian Mbappe equalised and ensured this finale in Doha was not just a Lionel Messi swansong.
Messi scored, but Mbappe scored again and then again (in the shootout), and the Argentinian victory came after much pain, much like their every game.
The passions had spilled into the tight-collared Press tribune, the emotional rollercoaster a bit much for the scribes to remember a deadline loomed. Hugs, fist pumps and the out-of-control lacrimal glands had taken over the most seasoned hacks. They, as well, had never witnessed something as primal as this. Messi, too, cried and with him the whole of Argentina — the country needed this.
And when he lifted the Cup, capped by the Arab ceremonial bisht conferred to him by the Emir of the Land (Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani), the scene was truly ceremonial for the coronation of the man, and all debates settled that very moment.
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He was soon on the shoulders of Sergio Aguero, who had missed a place in the squad but was here to lift his old friend as the disciples from the stands used every means available — mobile phone cameras, modern contraptions with larger-than-arms telephoto lenses, or just good old eyes — to capture memories for a lifetime.
The eager journalists waiting for the million-dollar byte in the mixed zone were greeted by the songs of the heroes who had won. The lyrics — “Support the national team, support them to the death because I love Argentina, because it’s an emotion I carry in my heart. And I don’t care what those f*****g journalists say” — were not very flattering but we laughed along as the World Cup winners danced and the others jostled to get a video of them.
There has always been a strained relationship between the Argentine national team and its Press since the Maradona days. El Diego had sung, “They are like pancakes: they flip one way and then the other” in the flight back home about the Argentina football federation in 1986, and here the team of 2022 was doing the same.
Soon they were in the midst of their people, taking an open-top bus-ride in the busy street of Lusail and we were back at our desks, the 20 missed calls reminding us about the deadline missed, and the jibe was long forgotten.
The stories were dispatched in a jiffy as a party was waiting. The Argentinian media, keeping their superstitions aside, had booked the Oasis (literally a beer-filled oasis in the middle of this dry desert) at the main media centre for 19000 Riyals a day before the final in anticipation of the win they were sure of coming. Like the team, they, too, believed in the song that had become Argentina’s anthem.
Everyone was invited and their joy was ours too. (We don’t know about the French.)
And we sang as the sun rose after the magical night.
Muchachos, esta noche me emborracho,
En Argentina nací, tierra de Diego y Lionel / de los pibes de Malvinas que jamás olvidaré
No te lo puedo explicar, porque no vas a entender / las finales que perdimos, cuántos años las lloré
Pero eso se terminó porque en el Maracaná / la final con los brazucas la volvió a ganar papá.
Muchachos, ahora nos volvimos a ilusionar. Quiero ganar la tercera, quiero ser campeón mundial.
Y al Diego en el cielo lo podemos ver / con Don Diego y con la Tota, alentándolo a Lionel
Boys, tonight I’ll get drunk,
I was born in Argentina, land of Diego and Lionel / of the boys from the Falklands that I’ll never forget
I can’t explain it because you won’t understand / the finals that we lost, I’ve grieved them for so long
But it’s all over now because at the Maracana / we won that final against the Brazilians
Boys, now we can dream again. I want to win the third (World Cup), I want to be a world champion.
We can see Diego in heaven alongside Don Diego and la Tota (Maradona’s parents), supporting Lionel.