The Long Game
Listen to seasons 1 and 2, wherever you get your podcasts.
The Long Game highlights stories that highlight courage and conviction on and off the field. A co-production with Foreign Policy, The Long Game is hosted by Olympic medalist and trailblazer Ibtihaj Muhammad.
Listen to seasons 1 and 2, wherever you get your podcasts.
Boxing provides a path out of poverty for girls in Pakistan
Aliya Soomro was not yet 10 years old when she heard that a boxing coach near her home was training young girls. Aliya lives in Lyari, a densely populated neighborhood in Karachi, Pakistan known for gang violence and dangerous streets. When she heard about this gym, where she could learn to box, Aliya jumped at the chance. And while her conservative family and community were concerned at first, boxing soon proved to be a path out of poverty for Aliya. Now, other young girls in Lyari are getting the chance to follow their athletic dreams.
Soccer opens path to reconciliation
Eric Murangwa Eugene was a 19-year-old goalkeeper for Rwanda’s most beloved soccer (football) team when the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsis began. On the first day of the genocide, soldiers came to Eric’s house, looking for enemies of the state. But one of the soldiers saw Eric’s album filled with photos of his time with the team, and he was spared. Eric spent much of the genocide in hiding, helped by his teammates and supporters of his soccer club, many of them Hutus. Today, Eric is the founder of an organization called Football for Hope, Peace and Unity. It uses soccer as a tool to promote tolerance, unity and reconciliation among Rwandan youth in order to prevent tragedies like the 1994 genocide from ever happening again.
TIBU Africa changes lives through sports
Earlier this year, host Ibtihaj Muhammad traveled to Morocco to meet with 18 young sports entrepreneurs living and working in North Africa. The program is called My Sport, My Future, and it’s run by an organization called TIBU Africa. TIBU was founded in 2010 by former Morocco national basketball team player Mohamed Amine Zariat. It started as a program that ran a basketball tournament for young people in low-income neighborhoods in Morocco, but it’s grown into an organization that trains young people in leadership and social skills. To date, TIBU has served more than 250,000 people including girls in rural areas, kids with motion disabilities, migrants, refugees, youth and women. Now, Amine is hoping to inspire others to use sport as an agent for change in all of Africa.
Athletes join the fight for women’s rights in Iran
At first glance, the 2022 protests in Iran might not seem like a sports story. But in the lead-up to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, there were calls to bar Iran from the tournament altogether because of its government’s treatment of women. Women in Iran have some rights, like access to education, the ability to vote and the right to be elected to Parliament—but they can’t choose whether to wear the hijab, and until recently, they couldn’t attend most sporting events. With Iranian women still unable to attend men’s soccer (football) matches in their home country, many have traveled to Qatar to attend World Cup matches.
Biking through the pain of war
In 2015, Rebecca Rusch and Huyen Nguyen set out to bike 1,200 miles of the Ho Chi Minh Trail as strangers from once-opposing countries. They two cyclists navigated the infamous trail through Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, carrying the weight of their personal connections to the land. The journey challenged not only their physical capabilities, but their notions of war, pride, sorrow and loss. Rusch planned the ride in honor of her father who died in 1972 while flying a fighter jet over Laos. Rusch was 3 years old when her father died. Nguyen helped Rusch through the sometimes dangerous terrain, carrying her own personal stories of the war. What did they face, head on, as they rode together?
A soccer star gives back to Sierra Leone
When Michael Lahoud was 6 years old, he fled civil war in Sierra Leone and came to the United States. He felt scared and alone. But with help from his favorite sport—soccer—Lahoud was able to make friends, find a community and earn a college scholarship. Years later, while playing professionally in the United States, Lahoud was approached by a stranger, who asked him, “How would you like to change the world?” For Lahoud, the answer was simple. He decided to build a school in Sierra Leone and use his platform as a professional soccer player to make sure that what happened in his home country never happens again.
Bobsledder Kaillie Humphries and the fight against abusive coaching
Bobsledder Kaillie Humphries won her third gold medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics. But, for the first time, instead of singing along to “O Canada” during the medal ceremony, Kaillie belted out the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Kaillie left Team Canada in 2018, after she says her federation failed to act on her allegations of verbal and mental abuse against the team’s coach. Now Kaillie is hoping her story helps to reform the Olympic system and help other athletes stand up against negative coaching and abuse.
Lina Khalifeh: SheFighter
Lina Khalifeh created SheFighter, the first women-only self-defense school in the Middle East, after becoming frustrated seeing so much violence against women. She works with women all over the world to learn self-defense and inspires them to take on active roles in society. Since the program’s inception in 2012, SheFighter has trained more than 25,000 women in 35 countries.
Using football to spread the word about the plight of the Rohingya
Robi Alam is a Rohingya refugee. His family fled violence and persecution in Myanmar. A decade later, Robi was born in a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Life was hard in the camps, and Robi and his friends would wrap rubber bands around a wad of plastic bags and play football (soccer) until the ball fell apart. When Robi was 10, his family emigrated to Australia, where most people have never even heard of the plight of the Rohingya. To help ease their transition, Robi and some of his fellow Rohingya started playing football again, informally at first, in nearby parks. But their passion grew, and they formed an official club. They call themselves Rohingya United, and their goal is to raise awareness of the Rohingya issue. Now there are Rohingya football teams scattered across Australia, as well as in Canada, the US and other countries.
Nneka Ogwumike on Brittney Griner and the politics of pay inequity
Season two of The Long Game kicks off with returning host Ibtihaj Muhammad interviewing Nneka Ogwumike, the president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, about the efforts she and others in the league have made to keep the spotlight on Brittney Griner.
Season 2 of The Long Game launches October 13
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?