Russian President Vladimir Putin was absolutely right when he asserted at the inauguration of Russia World Cup 2018 that the love for football can bring the world together, irrespective of people’s ideological differences. There is certainly no other sporting event, including the Summer Olympics, which appeals to the masses around the world in the way the World Cup does.

Images from around the globe over the past few weeks are ample proof of the World Cup fever. The pictures of a group of kids at a backstreet of Rio de Janeiro having a ball as huge murals of Neymar and Jesus loom over them, or the self-taught sculptor who carves out giant images of football stars on the beach in Puri in India — they all reflect the united colours of football.

To the legion of lovers of this beautiful game, one does not have to be from a participating nation to soak in the spirit of this carnival. Otherwise, how do you explain the madness of a city like Kolkata in India where football fans stay divided into Brazil and Argentina camps for a month? The allure of the World Cup continues to bring together the best players from around the world. A global audience in the billions will tune into the games, testifying to its tremendous popularity. The 64 games over 32 days will, no doubt, produce some exciting contests that will shine the spotlight on a new generation of players while burnishing the reputation of some of the stars. With no clear favourites, this World Cup is perhaps the most open contest in recent times. Let the best team win.