The World Cup starts today. While expectations for Englands prospects have been muted, for many the teams performance is only a part of the tale.
At their best, such events offer a unique window on the world away from geopolitical headlines.
Hardened sceptics will, of course, look to bury themselves away.
Yet even casual fans working in business, usually more focused on the bottom line than the goal line, will find much to savour.
Behind every goal, save, win or loss there will be a deeper story to tell.
No one gets to the pinnacle of global sport without hard work, dedication, talent and ambition. None will have made it so far on this journey without the support and guidance of countless others, often quietly and without acknowledgement.
There are few successful business professionals who would not be able to say the same.
For many of ACCAs members and students across 180 countries, there will be plenty of (friendly) rivalry and intrigue in the coming weeks.
There should also be a significant amount of mutual recognition of what it takes to succeed.
Of course, sport is not exactly like real life.
A country such as Brazil, still leading the World Cup charts, is still yet to recognise its enormous economic potential. The global success enjoyed by African stars such as Mo Salah and Saido Mane is harder to access for their peers in other professions.
To help nations succeed internationally in business, it is crucial to develop capabilities that underpin trade and growth.
A strong financial infrastructure is vital for facilitating trade opportunities and inward investment. It provides assurance and builds trust in emerging economies.
Nowhere can that point be made more starkly than in Afghanistan.
In the war-torn country, only 20 per cent of companies pay tax, while credit only accounts for three per cent of GDP. One of the countrys key exports – pomegranates – are often sold through intermediaries in Pakistan, due to the difficulties of securing access to finance and partners to trade globally.
The emergence of Afghanistan as a cricket nation – they were awarded Test status last year, and several players feature in the Indian Premier League – has garnered some attention. Yet the regions development of the accountancy profession is perhaps more remarkable, and will deliver sustainable growth long term.
CPA Afghanistan was launched last December, with the support of ACCA, the World Bank, and many other partners globally, currently training more than 1,400 professional accountants.
More than 200 of those students are female, in a country where women account for less than a fifth of the workforce.
Similarly, ACCA has worked extensively with the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Rwanda since 2016 – in partnership with the Department for International Development and International Federation of Accountants.
While the country still bears the scars of its 1994 civil war, its economy has started to flourish: it was ranked 41st out of 190 countries by the World Banks Ease of Doing Business Index in 2017.
Developing its financial talent pipeline will be a key aspect of maintaining this upward trajectory.
Such projects are equally important in other emerging economies globally, where governments and business see a robust financial infrastructure as a key step in the next stage of growth.
They also open up opportunities for social mobility, offering up flexible and accessible routes into a thriving global profession.
What is important here is that such initiatives harness the power of global networks and standards. They empower economies and communities by ensuring that a talent pipeline for finance can be based upon in-depth local knowledge, coupled with internationally-recognised professional education.
None of the countries mentioned above will feature at the World Cup in Russia: although they all competed for qualification. Yet such is the global appeal of the World Cup that the events will be just as keenly followed there as they will be in London, Madrid or Sao Paulo.
Given the uncertainty surrounding diplomatic tensions between the US, China, Europe and Russia, such international events have a particular
Yet we should also remind ourselves of the value and opportunity the spread of global standards in business can bring.
“Football is not a matter of life and death,” said the legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly. “It is much more important than that.”
For outsiders, it can be just as easy to smile at the notion that the accountancy profession can occupy similar importance.
Yet for many, pursuing a successful career in global business will be as passionate a dream as sporting glory. Ensuring as many as possible have the ability to access, and the support needed, to bring that dream to life will be a vital goal long after the memory of this years finals have faded.
So lets hope that events on the pitch at Russia 2018 are a fitting showcase for the globalised vision it represents. And lets hope that the England team have done their revision if it comes to penalties.