A Troubled Cup for the Beautiful Game

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has kicked off in Qatar, and billions of fans worldwide are tuning in to the world’s most popular live event. And yet as in years past, the Qatar Cup is transpiring under the shadow of controversy.

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Podcast Host and Producer

Asher Ross - Supervising Producer

Markus Zakaria - Audio Producer and Sound Designer

Molly McAnany - Associate Podcast Producer

Episode Guests
  • Laurent Dubois
    Academic Director, Karsh Institute of Democracy and John L. Nau III Bicentennial Professor of the History & Principles of Democracy, University of Virginia

Show Notes

As Qatar welcomes more than a million fans to its newly-constructed soccer stadia, billions more are watching avidly from every corner of the planet. Still, the 2022 Cup has long been overshadowed by accusations of corruption, exploited migrant labor, and the clash between Qatar’s domestic laws and Western democratic values. Qatar was willing to lay out more than $200 billion in order to burnish its image on the world stage, but it remains unclear whether they will get the desired return on their investment. In this episode, we ask what the World Cup’s soft power means when wielded by a tiny, authoritarian petrostate, and what lessons can be learned from the world’s irrepressible love of soccer.


From CFR


Eleanor Albert and Jonathan Grix, “The Mixed Record of Sports Diplomacy


Kali Robinson, “What Is the Kafala System?


Rebecca Turkington, “Going for the Goal: Will the 2019 World Cup Be a Game Changer for Women’s Soccer?


From Our Guest


The Language of the Game: How to Understand Soccer


Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France


Read More


Jules Boykoff and Dave Zirin, “The Tragic Absurdity of Qatar’s World Cup Sportswashing,” The Nation


Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, “Politics and Soccer in the EU,” Institute of World Politics


Simon Evans, “Soccer-Politics and Protest in Sport: Have FIFA’s Rules Changed?,” Reuters


James Montague and Tariq Panja, “Ahead of Qatar World Cup, a Gulf Feud Plays Out in the Shadows,” New York Times


Rory Smith, “Soccer Is Politics, Whether It Likes It or Not,” New York Times


Watch and Listen


The True Cost of the Qatar 2022 World Cup,” Business Insider


World Corrupt,” Crooked Media

The Qatar World Cup Explained,” Tifo Football


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