On The Long Game, we highlight stories of courage and conviction on and off the field. From athletes who are breaking barriers for women and girls to a Syrian refugee swimmer who overcame the odds to compete at the Paralympics, The Long Game examines the power of sport to change the world for the better.
The Long Game, a co-production with Foreign Policy, is hosted by Olympic medalist and trailblazer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who takes you around the globe to meet athletes fighting for change.
How a former NFL player tackles environmental racism…with help from a cartoon
It’s no coincidence that factories and toxic waste facilities have been built near poor communities and communities of color. It’s part of larger racist systems that exist all over the world. And for a long time, the people most affected by environmental threats have been the least heard. One environmental activist is trying to change that. Taking his cues from “Captain Planet,” former American football player Ovie Mughelli is helping to create the next generation of environmental superheroes.
Why intersex athlete Annet Negesa is telling her story
In 2012, Annet Negesa qualified to represent Uganda in the 800-meter run at the London Olympics. But just weeks before the Games, she got a call from her agent. A test had shown high levels of naturally occurring testosterone in her blood. She would not be allowed to compete. In an attempt to restore her eligibility, Annet underwent a serious, irreversible surgery that derailed her career and left her with serious medical side effects. Now, Annet is sharing her story to try to help other women avoid the same fate.
How a Chilean women’s soccer player scored for gender equality
For as long as she can remember, Iona Rothfeld has loved playing soccer (or football). But in Chile, soccer is considered a “boys’” sport. When she was 13 years old, Iona was named to the Chilean women’s national football team. She thought she had finally found a place where women’s soccer was respected. Instead, she was issued hand-me-down jerseys and told to shower in locker rooms that didn’t have hot water. But in 2016, at the age of 23, Iona founded the first union for women’s soccer players in all of Latin America. And things are finally starting to change in Chile.
A Syrian Paralympian who competes for all refugees
Ibrahim Al Hussein grew up in Syria watching the Olympics on TV. He was a swimmer, and he dreamed of someday being one of the athletes up on the podium. But at age 22 — the age at which many swimmers are in their prime — he lost his leg in a bomb blast, and became one of the 5.6 million people who have fled Syria since the start of the Civil War. Ibrahim still hasn’t been able to return to his home country, but in 2016, he became one of two Paralympians to compete in Rio as part of the Refugee Olympic team — a team formed by the International Olympic Committee in response to the number of stateless athletes looking for avenues to compete at the Olympics.
Mohamed Salah changed attitudes. Other athletes can too.
Mohamed Salah is one of the best forwards in the English Premier League, which has a reputation for racism and Islamophobia. Since Mohamed, a Muslim, has joined Liverpool, Islamophobia in the surrounding area has dropped significantly. Social scientists are studying how athletes can change attitudes.
The unstoppable spirit of Paralympian Scout Bassett
When she was just an infant, Scout Bassett lost her right leg in a fire. She lived in an orphanage in China until she was almost 8 years old, when she was adopted and brought to the United States. But Scout’s struggles were just beginning, and it wasn’t until she was fitted with a running prosthetic that her life really began to change.
From a war zone to the FIFA boardroom, a female footballer finds her way
Honey Thaljieh grew up in a Palestinian battle zone. One day, on the streets of Israeli-occupied Bethlehem, a group of boys playing football (or American soccer) happened to pass her the ball. Soon, Thaljieh discovered that she was a gifted athlete. But more than that, football became Thalijeh’s path to freedom, dignity and fame. In 2003, Thaljieh co-founded the Palestinian Women’s National Football Team and was named its first captain. Now retired from competition, Thaljieh works as a manager of corporate communications for FIFA, supporting projects that promote gender equality, life skills, health, education and peace through sport.
How South Africa’s 1995 Rugby World Cup win is still felt today
The 1995 Rugby World Cup marked the end of apartheid and South Africa’s return to the international sports stage. The home team, the Springboks, weren’t expected to go far. Instead, they won it all. And if that sounds to you like the kind of thing Hollywood would make a movie about, you’re right. It’s the story at the center of Invictus, the 2009 film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. The movie ends with Nelson Mandela being driven away from the stadium in Johannesburg, his car surrounded by overjoyed fans. But the true impact of that day — and that game — is still felt in South Africa today.
“I never felt more like myself”: A professional basketball player’s hijab journey
As a college basketball player, Batouly Camara made three Final Four appearances with the University of Connecticut. She’s the daughter of immigrants, a children’s book author and she’s founded her own nonprofit to help women and girls get access to sports and education. And if that’s not enough, she’s also one of the first Muslim women to play professional basketball in hijab.
World Cup 2022: Can mega-event activism actually lead to lasting change?
Mega-sized sporting events — including the 2022 Qatar World Cup — often bring with them a spotlight and intense international scrutiny of whatever problems plague the host nation. But what happens when the circus leaves town and the spotlight goes dark? Can mega-event activism actually lead to lasting change?
Cricketers lead the way for India and Pakistan
In the 1980s and 1990s, “cricket diplomacy” was seen as a way to mend fences between neighboring India and Pakistan. But as relations between the two countries worsen, their long-standing cricket rivalry is changing. And now, after an unexpected showing at the 2021 Cricket World Cup, some fans are hoping the Pakistan team can help bring their country back to the international stage.
Olympic judoka fights for women in Afghanistan
Friba Rezayee was the first woman to compete for Afghanistan in the Olympics. Since then, she’s worked tirelessly to support Afghan women in sports and education. Her mission is to help create her country’s future leaders. But now that the Taliban is back in power, what’s to become of Friba’s dream of gender equality in Afghanistan?