What if Russia and Ukraine were to meet in a refereed match somewhere in Middle East where the keys to the nuclear bombs and the computerised drones bearing deadly missiles were out of reach?
Well, such a possibility existed and the two were destined to meet in a stadium full of emotionally charged fans in Qatar but the gods of war ruled against it.
And now Russia will altogether miss its place in the community of nations in this year’s World Cup which kicked off yesterday. Russia is a pariah according to most western countries for invading Ukraine where a war has been raging for the most of the year.
And perhaps it would have taken the hand of the Almighty for the underdogs to conquer both the sweltering desert heat of Qatar and an abrasive superpower.
Four decades ago the world was treated to an unlikely war fought not by neighbours but countries that were 13,000 kilometres apart to settle a dispute which had been raging since 1833 over the Falkands Islands, some 480 kilometres east of Argentina.
Britain had seized the islands which Argentina badly needed for political reasons. The dispute sucked in nearly all the European nations which under The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supported Britain under Margaret Thatcher.
On the other hand, Latin American countries sided with Argentina. The United States of America threw its weight behind Britain. Outgunned and outmuscled, Argentina limped out of the conflict defeated. But they were avenged for, four years later in 1986 by a diminutive soccer player Diego Maradona who weaved through defenders and embarrassed Britain’s celebrated goal keeper, Peter Shilton.
And because of the ‘hand of God' goal, Argentina defeated Britain, and went on to win the World Cup after thrashing West Germany 3-2. This according to Maradona and millions of Argentinians was a symbolic revenge against Britain whose war in Falklands four years earlier had cost Argentina 650 lives.
In this year's soccer extravaganza, the host of the previous World Cup Russia will be absent and so will be the author of the 'hand of God' goal, Maradona, who died in 2020, aged 60. His antics are also not likely to replayed for technology has since been deployed in soccer where video assistant referee (VAR) is used to review some controversial moves.
However, in billions of homes across the world, the battle for the remote control of the TV will determine the balance of power as an estimated seven billion pair of eyes watch the World Cup.