Sunday’s enthralling final between Argentina and France was a fitting finale to the quadrennial football extravaganza. Argentina, which lifted the World Cup after 36 years, was easily the best team on display in a tournament that showcased great skill, grit, gumption and flair. Argentina melded grace and tenacity to prevail over European efficiency.

The energy and confidence of the less-celebrated African and Asian teams in the tournament was truly heart-warming. Finally, there was the ‘cometh the hour cometh the man’ moment for Lionel Messi who displayed great endurance to lift his game to the ecstatic highs expected of him – beating back bad memories of earlier World Cup outings. The Cup was also a tribute to the ‘beautiful game’, that rewards an amalgam of teamwork, style, intelligence, experience and not just individual athleticism. The manner in which teams and individuals excel themselves on the field will always be a subject of management research.

No multi-mega sporting event is about sport alone; it is set against the backdrop of mega bucks and political games. This World Cup in Qatar began in a blaze of controversies. War-tainted Russia was banned, while Qatar’s human rights record, alleged corrupt practices, and the Gulf nation’s democracy deficit came under Western scrutiny. Qatar’s eight new football stadiums were built largely by workers from the Indian sub-continent. The working conditions hogged the limelight in the Western press when news of workers dying during the construction of stadiums came to light. Then, LGBTQ+ activists in the West protested over the fact that homosexuality is considered a crime in Qatar. Iranian players protested against their government’s imposition of hijab, forcing the latter to concede some ground – also because the stage of world sport can have a uniquely forceful appeal. And then, Chinese erupted in protest over their country’s zero-Covid policy and lockdowns after watching on television thousands of fans throng stadiums without any Covid protocols whatsoever.

The game also rakes in a lot of money. FIFA may have earned $7.5 billion from the 2022 World Cup, from ticket sales, broadcasting rights, marketing rights, hospitality rights and other revenue streams. Indian companies got on to the sponsorship bandwagon. Messi was the brand ambassador for edtech major BYJU’S and Amul was the official sponsor of both the Argentina and Portugal teams. FIFA chief Gianni Infantino declared the Qatar Cup as the “best ever” so far. But it remains to be seen whether emerging economies emerge as hosts in the future. That would depend on their growth prospects and resources in an uncertain world. In the short run, a football fiesta lifts consumer confidence, markets, investor sentiment and risk-taking. That makes it a mega draw.