DiscoverThe Long Game: Sports Stories of Courage and Conviction
The Long Game: Sports Stories of Courage and Conviction

The Long Game: Sports Stories of Courage and Conviction

Author: Doha Debates and Foreign Policy

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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 is hosted by Olympic medalist and change agent Ibtihaj Muhammad as she guides the series around the globe to meet athletes who are fighting for change.

24 Episodes
Aliya Soomro was not yet ten 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.
Eric Murangwa Eugene was a 19-year-old goalkeeper for Rwanda’s most beloved 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 an album filled with photos of his time with the team, and Eric was saved. Eric spent much of the genocide in hiding, helped by his teammates and supporters of his football club, many of them Hutus. Today, Eric is the founder of an organization called Football for Hope, Peace and Unity. It uses football 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.
Earlier this year, 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 used basketball to connect with underprivileged youth, but it’s grown to be much more than that. 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.
At first glance, the protests in Iran might not seem like a sports story. But in the lead up to the Qatar World Cup, there were calls to bar Iran from the tournament altogether, over the government’s treatment of women. Women in Iran have more rights than women in a place like Afghanistan. They have access to education. They can vote. They can be elected to Parliament. But they can’t choose whether or not to wear the hijab. And until recently, they couldn’t attend sporting events in person. That’s how sports and women’s rights came to be intertwined in Iran.
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 three 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?
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. For more information on how to support schools in Sierra Leone visit Schools for Salone.
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 2019, 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.
When Lina Khalifeh was young, all she wanted to do was play football with the boys in her neighborhood in Jordan. But the boys bullied her, and her family punished her for getting into fights. That’s when Lina’s mother signed her up to learn taekwondo. Later, with 20 national and international gold medals under her belt, Lina became frustrated with the violence against women she saw all around her. She created SheFighter, the first women-only self-defense school in the Middle East. Lina 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.
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 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.
On today’s show, host Ibtihaj Muhammad interviews 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. Griner, an eight-time WNBA All-Star, was sentenced in August to nine years in a Russian prison after pleading guilty to drug charges. Russian officials said they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s airport. In the conversation, Ogwumike talks about the injustice of Griner’s case. She also delves into her successes in negotiating the WNBA’s most recent union contract and her quest to end pay inequity in the sport.
Trailer Season 2

Trailer Season 2


On The Long Game, we highlight stories of courage and conviction on and off the field. From Rohingya refugees who play soccer to share their story of surviving genocide, to the WNBA Players Association president who's fighting to bring Brittney Griner home, The Long Game examines the power of sport to change the world for the better. Olympic medalist and change agent Ibtihaj Muhammad guides the series around the globe to meet athletes who are fighting for change. Join us for Season 2 of The Long Game, launching on October 13th.
It’s no coincidence that factories and toxic waste facilities have been built near poor communities and communities of color. It’s part of the larger systems of racism that exist all over the world. But for a long time, the people most affected by environmental threats have been largely absent from the broader conversation. But there’s one environmental activist trying to change all that. Taking his cues from Captain Planet, his favorite cartoon from the 1990s, former American football player Ovie Mughelli is using his love of sports and comic books to help create the next generation of environmental superheroes. To learn more about the Ovie Mughelli Foundation, email That's it for this season of The Long Game. We'll be working on Season 2. If you have ideas for future episodes, please write to us at:Write to us at or tag us on social: @dohadebates.
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.
For as long as she can remember, Iona Rothfeld has loved playing soccer. But in Chile, soccer is considered a “boys” sport. When she was 13 years old, Iona was named to the Chilean Women’s National Soccer 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.
Ibrahim Al Hussein grew up watching the Olympics on TV. He was a swimmer. And he dreamed of someday being one of the athletes up on the podium. But Ibrahim became one of the 5.6 million people who have left Syria since the start of the Civil War after losing his leg in a bomb blast. He 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 IOC in response to the number of stateless athletes looking for avenues to compete at the Olympics. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Mohamed Salah is one of the best forwards in the English Premier League. He is a Muslim, playing in a league that has a reputation for racism and Islamophobia. But that hasn’t stopped Liverpool fans from rallying around their star. Salah doesn’t give a lot of interviews about his faith. You won’t see him leading a lot of protests or marches. But he does put his faith on display -- very publicly and very consistently. And since he’s started playing in Liverpool, Islamophobia in the surrounding area has dropped significantly. Now, social scientists are wondering what Salah’s popularity can teach us about how athletes can change attitudes.
When it comes to dealing with adversity, Scout Bassett has had more than her fair share. Born in Nanjing, China, she was abandoned after losing her leg in a fire when she was around 18 months old. At age seven she was adopted by a family in the United States and had to adjust to a new language and new culture. Despite her disability, Bassett was always passionate about sports, and eventually learned to run using a prosthetic leg. Bassett tells her story to host Ibtihaj Muhammad about how she eventually made it to the Paralympic Games and in the process became an icon for perseverance and determination.
Honey Thaljieh grew up in a war zone. One day, on the streets of Bethlehem, she passed by a group of boys playing football. By chance, they passed her the ball. Soon, Honey discovered that she was a gifted athlete. But more than that, football became Honey’s path to freedom and dignity. It took her to Europe and the U.S., where she saw young people, far from the tragic backdrop of war, playing on manicured grass fields smooth enough to shoot pool on. In 2003, Honey helped found the Palestinian Women’s National Football team. She was named its first captain. Now retired from competition, Honey works as a Manager of Corporate Communications for FIFA.  We want to hear from you! To fill out our 2021 listener survey, go to
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. We want to hear from you! To fill out our 2021 listener survey, go to
Whenever an athlete steps onto a field, court, or fencing strip, they bring with them all that they are: their background, their lived experiences and their religion. But for some athletes, their faith is a bit more visible than it is for others. 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 the founder of WAKE, Women and Kids Empowerment. It's a non-profit dedicated to helping 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. We want to hear from you! To fill out our 2021 listener survey, go to
Comments (8)

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May 14th

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Dec 6th

mr vinnu

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Dec 4th

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Nov 24th
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