Offside: Watch the World Cup alongside the Atlantic Council

The most watched sporting event in the world is underway, and the global viewers for this year’s World Cup will be watching much more than the action on the pitch in Qatar. Fans are also closely scrutinizing what unfolds on the sidelines of the controversial tournament, as concerns about Qatar’s human-rights record and FIFA’s corruption scandals have come to the fore in recent months and years.

Geopolitics are also playing out on the pitch, as players from the thirty-two teams competing in the tournament look to make a stand against human-rights abuses and discrimination. Our experts will be tracking it all—and handing out cards where they see fit.

The latest from Qatar

DECEMBER 15, 2022 | 10:01 AM WASHINGTON | 6:01 PM QATAR

The long-term impact of Morocco’s magical World Cup run

The world abruptly woke up from the roller-coaster ride of a dream that was Morocco’s miraculous World Cup run on Wednesday when the Atlas Lions lost 2-0 to defending champion France in the semifinals. But Morocco nonetheless succeeded by inspiring millions of children from Africa and the Middle East, uniting much of the world during an uncertain time with its historic performance.

Not only was Morocco the first African and Arab nation to ever reach the semifinals of the World Cup, but it accomplished that feat with a roster in which fourteen out of twenty-six players were born abroad, mostly in Europe. While this phenomenon can be attributed to the failure of some European nations to assimilate migrants from North Africa, it has implications for the future of international soccer teams in African and Arab nations. Children in the region and in the diaspora have seen the successes of Morocco and could now be inspired to play for the nation of their cultural roots over the country where their family may have emigrated. Western nations are known for having powerhouse teams made up from immigrants, most notoriously France’s 2018 World Cup-winning team, in which twelve of twenty-three players had African roots, spanning nine different nations. Therefore, this shift in which nation a player chooses to represent could cause a seismic shake-up in the international soccer hierarchy, with more African and Middle Eastern teams potentially rising in rank from a generation of youth that have been inspired by the 2022 Atlas Lions.

Off the field, it could be argued that Morocco’s World Cup run was more successful in bringing together the Arab and African community than traditional diplomatic routes—showcasing the overwhelmingly positive impact that soccer and other sporting events can have. With Africa and the Middle East having large youth populations, governments in the region and international organizations should seize this positive momentum by building infrastructure and programs to support inclusive sporting opportunities for young people.

From kids running around with a soccer ball at their feet in the historic streets of Marrakech, to neighboring nations such as Tunisia celebrating the victories of Morocco’s team like their own country had won, to internally displaced people’s camps in northern Syria tuning into the matches, the Middle East and Africa stood and cheered in unison behind the Atlas Lions and the beautiful game. Although their inspiring World Cup run is over, this special group of Moroccans has forever etched their names into history and changed the future of soccer and the region for the better.

Hezha Barzani is a program assistant with the Atlantic Council’s empowerME initiative. Follow him on Twitter @HezhaFB.

DECEMBER 10, 2022 | 2:18 PM WASHINGTON | 10:18 PM QATAR

Morocco’s triumphs signal a new world order in more than soccer

Soccer has proven to be much more than a simple sport. It is a powerful diplomatic tool, an avenue for national branding, and a potent apparatus for symbolic power in the Bourdieusian sense. When an underdog with a 0.01 percent chance to win the 2022 World Cup at the start of the tournament advances to the semifinals and eliminates football legends such as Portugal, Spain, and Belgium, it is undeniably added symbolic capital to the regional and international credit of the Atlas Lions. 

With a stunning, intense victory over Portugal on Saturday, Morocco became the first Arab country and the first African country to make the World Cup semifinals. The kingdom’s wins were perceived as symbolic redemption for defeats and deceptions of MENA and African countries in modern times, as well as an act of metaphorical revenge against Western colonizers and imperialist legacies. African and Middle Eastern populations have been fervent supporters of this tournament’s dark horse, as they can identify with its tenacity and resilience vis-à-vis teams four times its market value (based on the transfer value of each team’s players).

Although the Moroccan team relies heavily on diaspora players, with fourteen out of twenty-six team members born abroad—mostly in European nations such as France, the Netherlands, or Spain—these double nationals chose to play under the colors of their country of origin. This phenomenon can be interpreted as a failure of European integration and assimilation of migrants from North African nations. These phenomenal footballers couldn’t identify with their host countries and continued to pay allegiance to the Arab Islamic kingdom where their families emigrated from.

Players who prostrate to pray after each win and wave the Palestinian flag, alcohol-free matches, and high-level competition in an Arab land are all peculiar and novel sights for global spectators. These symbolic elements could be signs of a changing world order where euro-centric value systems are no longer dominant, and a more diverse football culture is being established. Similarly, European teams such as Italy and Germany that were disqualified early could also be a symbolic reflection of their own countries’ post-pandemic woes. Could France be next?

Sarah Zaaimi is the deputy director for communications at Rafik Hariri Center and Middle East Programs. Follow her on Twitter @ZaaimiSarah.


No politics… except Palestine

FIFA and Qatar have diligently worked to silence issues deemed too political, from rainbow flags and attire in support of LGBTQ rights to t-shirts commemorating the death of Mahsa Amini and demanding rights for Iranian women. Stadium security and police have forced fans to hand over their items or have taken fans away from the stadium areas. Those instances have circulated widely on social media and fan group chats. Too frequently, security has made an issue where one really did not exist, resulting in more attention, not less, on the fan advocate.

In contrast, support for Palestinians is prominent across the World Cup, with Palestinian flags and chants everywhere: matches, the souq, public transportation, and even social media platforms. In Morocco’s win over Spain, players and fans donned the flag for photos, and fans sang pro-Palestine songs. Fans from elsewhere in the world who are not well versed on the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict are learning; some fans are even now becoming converts to the Palestinian cause. Examples of fans donning the Palestinian flag are more and more common each day in malls, television interviews, and the many fan areas in and around Doha.

One lasting outcome of the World Cup could well be that fans who were disinterested in the issues surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict are now at least interested and remain aware of happenings in the broader Levant. The world may also see more Palestinian flags at international matches moving forward as World Cup fans continue to commemorate their attendance in Qatar by raising the flag that they were gifted–and commentators would be forced to acknowledge the change in fan behavior.

Jennifer Counter is a nonresident senior fellow in the Forward Defense practice of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. She is attending the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar.

DECEMBER 6, 2022 | 2:11 PM WASHINGTON | 10:11 PM QATAR

Where is the UAE?

Noticeably absent from the Gulf’s neighborhood block party is an Emirati presence. This unique tournament has Arab culture and societies on display—whether they qualified for the World Cup or not. Unlike the Qatari, Saudi, and Palestinian flags found everywhere, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) flag is noticeably missing from the fan zones and stadiums. Plus, UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan only came to Doha on an official visit on December 5, well after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) initial visit to Qatar to take in the spectacle. And unlike MBS and his informal family visits with the Qatari royal family, the UAE leader’s visit was short and formal. Despite lingering trust issues between Qatar and the UAE in the post-blockade period, the lack of Emirati presence is somewhat surprising during the first-ever Middle East-hosted World Cup. Arguably, Abu Dhabi appears to be taking its relationship with Saudi for granted as MBS, on behalf of Riyadh, soaks up the love from Qatari leaders.

Jennifer Counter is a nonresident senior fellow in the Forward Defense practice of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. She is attending the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar.


In Rabat, unprecedented unity behind the Atlas Lions

You want drama? Heart-pounding, nerve-wracking drama? Join a sports bar full of Moroccan fans desperately cheering on their beloved underdog Atlas Lions in a scoreless draw against mighty Spain. And you want a heart attack? Have it go to penalty kicks. You want an explosion of joy? Morocco, three-nil. 

Here in Rabat, the work week might as well be over. Delirious Moroccans are pouring into the streets, honking, dancing, singing their hearts out. 

The Moroccan squad played with the pluck, modesty, and unity that characterizes this nation. Morocco is a leader in Africa and the Arab world, but does not flaunt its weight. It is used to not being in the room with great powers. It looks after its own interests, is a good partner to those it chooses as its friends (the United States, and now Israel, among them), and rarely makes much of a fuss. 

But it is also a society that feels deeply proud of its ancient history, cultural diversity, and the broad consensus in support of the royal leadership. A quiet, humble self-confidence expresses itself in cultural pride and legendary hospitality.  

Tonight, Moroccans are more unified than ever. As the exhausted players tossed Bono, the hero goalkeeper, into the air, the happy din in the streets was already rising. 

Daniel B. Shapiro is the director of the N7 Initiative.


Gulf neighbors get cozy

Saudis make up the third-largest group of ticket purchasers behind Qataris and Americans. After a shocking win against Argentina, the Saudis came out of their proverbial shell. They wore their flag proudly around their shoulders, bought up green scarves with their national symbol, and could be spotted at Saudi matches and even non-Saudi matches in their team’s jerseys. Saudis and Qataris could be seen partying at the Saudi House, a pavilion set up on the Corniche, or the main thoroughfare along the Doha waterfront. In short, it’s now “cool” to be Saudi at the World Cup.

With this newfound status, the Saudis have embraced the atmosphere and have actively engaged with fans from around the world. By fixing thobes and ghutrahs (robes and headscarves) of foreign fans embracing the local culture, joking in social media posts asking “Where’s Messi?!,” and simply striking up conversations with other fans, no matter where they are from, the Saudis are a key fixture in this World Cup. In many ways, they have made the tournament their own, playing host alongside the Qataris, to ensure fans from other parts of the world have fun and begin to see that Gulf Arabs are not as often portrayed in Western media according to stereotypical representations.

Along with the strong representation of Saudi fans, senior leaders from both Qatar and Saudi Arabia took part in the tournament’s opening ceremony and attended matches. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s seat next to FIFA President Gianni Infantino on the ceremony stage was no coincidence: It was a clear overture from the Qatari emir that it was time for the two countries to put the blockade, which was in effect from 2017 to 2021, behind them and start anew. Similarly, attendance at matches, and sharing of the royal box, by senior members of both Qatari and Saudi ruling families is a sign that the countries are looking forward.

At a more grassroots level, under a program established for the tournament, Qatari families are hosting fans, which has enabled them to reconnect with families, friends, and colleagues. Many Qataris are hosting multigenerational Saudi families, solidifying deep connections based on their time together and shared experiences attending matches. To ease congestion on roads and infrastructure during the World Cup, Qatar closed its schools, meaning that Qatari children are home and likely spending significant time with their guests—meaning the connections they build are likely to result in future communication and travel between the two countries.

Jennifer Counter is a nonresident senior fellow in the Forward Defense practice of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. She is attending the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar.


Saudi Arabia lost at the 2022 World Cup. But its sports sector is winning.

The Saudi Arabia versus Argentina match during the 2022 World Cup resulted in one of the biggest upsets in Argentina’s history, with the two-time champions experiencing its first defeat in thirty-six matches. The day of the November 22 match, Saudi ministries, government agencies, schools, and universities were directed to end working hours early so that people could watch the game. After Saudi Arabia’s victory, King Salman declared the next day a national holiday.

The Saudi victory brought euphoria not just to Saudis but also the entire region, with social media users from other Arab countries sharing videos of their reactions to the Saudi national team victory. As journalist Sarah Dadouch put it: “The Arab world in particular witnessed a rare moment of shared ecstasy.”

The outcome of the game was not a coincidence. As Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al Faisal stated, the team had been preparing for that moment for three years. The ministry’s significant efforts to promote and support soccer reflects its overall direction and goals.

The sports sector is one of the vital pillars of Saudi Vision 2030 and the Ministry of Sport’s dedication is tangible in Saudi Arabia, where one can witness the enhanced facilities and increased citizen participation in sports. This change did not occur overnight, and it is partly the result of the widespread public support for sports and entertainment and a desire to compete at the international level.

—Lujain Alotaibi is a project coordinator at King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. Follow her on Twitter: @LM_Otaibi.

Read more


Dec 2, 2022

Saudi Arabia lost at the 2022 World Cup. But its sports sector is winning.

By Lujain Alotaibi

The sports sector is one of the vital pillars of Saudi Vision 2030 and the Ministry of Sport’s dedication is tangible in Saudi Arabia, where one can witness the enhanced facilities and increased citizen participation in sports.

Middle East Politics & Diplomacy

NOVEMBER 25, 2022 | 9:08 PM WASHINGTON | 5:08 AM QATAR

The ties that bind the US and England

The relationship between the United States and England is uniquely close; it’s appropriate, perhaps, that the two teams drew when they played in Qatar. The connections are very strong: Nine of the twenty-six-man US squad play in UK leagues, the same number that play in the United States (the remainder play in Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and Turkey). Some even play in the same club teams. 

It goes deeper. US defenders Antonee Robinson and Cameron Carter-Vickers were born and raised in England. Midfielder Yunus Musah lived in England in his teenage years, went through Arsenal’s players’ academy, and even played for the English youth national team—before making the decision to play for the United States. “It was very difficult because, as I’ve said, I had such a great time in England. They did a lot for me in that country,” he said recently. The United States “obviously took one of ours, which we weren’t very happy about,” said England coach Gareth Southgate laconically earlier this week

Friday’s draw means England has yet to beat the United States in the World Cup. They have played only three times at that level, and the United States won the first encounter in 1950, shocking the world’s oldest footballing nation; the second and now the third were draws.

Andrew Marshall is the senior vice president of engagement at the Atlantic Council.

NOVEMBER 23, 2022 | 1:24 PM WASHINGTON | 9:24 PM QATAR

A World Cup for all Arabs, but

By Sarah Zaaimi

Qatar and its leadership are aggressively branding the 2022 World Cup as an event for all Arab countries: The first event of the sport hosted by an Arab and Muslim-majority country, they claim. The rest of the Arab states, however, may feel differently about such a statement, given the contentious nature of pan-Arabist discourse in an undeniably racially, religiously, and linguistically hybrid region and Qatar’s interventionist records in many regional conflicts.

The ongoing World Cup actively included contributions and elements from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Moroccan artist RedOne produced the official music and designed the launching event; the official cup balls were created in Egypt; and Arabs from various countries are providing security for the event, sculpting the iconic globe trophy, or participating in the dozens of artistic performances on the agenda. Doha is also a hub for Arab expatriates who constitute a core component of Qatar’s workforce, operating primarily in the government, media, business, and hospitality industries. Despite their tremendous contributions, these migrants possess no pathway toward Qatari citizenship, according to the laws in place.

Beyond the buoyant façade reflected at the launching event, where Arab leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Algeria, and Jordan came together to celebrate the kick-off of the World Cup, many structural differences persist between the MENA brothers. It is essentialist and reductionist to label all countries with Arabic-speaking majorities or Arab cultural elements as “Arab.” The region is much more complex and has undergone serious revisionist identity quests since the pan-Arab ideology of the fifties and sixties. For example, countries like Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco, with significant Amazigh communities, find it insulting to be reduced to one component of their complex and multi-layered heritage. Other communities in the region must feel the same, like Kurds, Assyrians, Nubians, etc.

On the political front, Qatar, in its pursuit to widen its geostrategic reach and overcome its “small state syndrome” ended up upsetting many fellow MENA countries. The healing process from the schism with other Gulf Cooperation Countries hasn’t been completed yet, especially with the UAE. Qatar’s financial and ideological meddling in Libya, Syria, and Egypt is still fresh in the memories of the citizens of these countries. At the same time, Al-Jazeera and Qatari media continue to upset multiple MENA regimes and undermine the territorial integrity of certain sovereign states. A World Cup for all Arabs, yes, but…

Sarah Zaaimi is the deputy director for communications at Rafik Hariri Center and Middle East Programs. Follow her on Twitter @ZaaimiSarah.

NOVEMBER 22, 2022 | 12:03 PM WASHINGTON | 8:03 PM QATAR

Money talks. And Saudi Arabia’s World Cup squad was screaming today.

By Hezha Barzani

Saudi Arabia just defeated one of the World Cup favorites—Lionel Messi led Argentina, with the Saudis breaking the third-highest ranked FIFA team’s thirty-six game unbeaten streak. This game is already being regarded as one of the most shocking upsets in World Cup history, but it is also just one piece of an enormous economic and cultural focus placed recently on the sport by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Last year a Saudi Arabia-led consortium, led by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund (the Public Investment Fund), purchased Newcastle United for over £300 million (over $405 million). This purchase was significant from an economic standpoint, as Saudi Arabia joined Gulf neighbors Qatar (ownership ties with Paris-Saint Germain) and the United Arab Emirates (ownership ties with Manchester City) in the lucrative European soccer investment arena. This purchase also aligned with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which includes revamping the nation’s tourism sector and branding the Kingdom as a “football loving nation.” In addition to the massive purchase of Newcastle United, it is clear that economically, Saudi Arabia has long-term commitments to the sport, with its sovereign wealth fund recently announcing more than two billion dollars in soccer sponsorship deals.

A large portion of these deals involves the development of Saudi Arabia’s domestic soccer clubs. From a cultural perspective, Saudi Arabia getting involved in European soccer will have a profound impact on the Saudi youth population and overall development of their soccer talent. With the Cup being played in neighboring Qatar, Saudi soccer academies are expecting an enrollment spike, while the government is simultaneously promoting more physical activity, showcasing how the Kingdom is laying plans for long-term international success.

With Saudi Arabia bidding to co-host the 2030 World Cup, it is making a strong play to become the capital of the soccer world in the Middle East. This decisive win against Argentina further cements its claim, but only time will tell if this victory was luck or the first sign of an emerging soccer powerhouse—thanks to the government’s economic and cultural investment.

Hezha Barzani is a program assistant in the Atlantic Council’s empowerME initiative. Follow him on Twitter @HezhaFB.

NOVEMBER 22, 2022 | 10:18 AM WASHINGTON | 6:18 PM QATAR

How China stands to win from Western attacks on Qatar

By Ahmed Aboudouh

Western media has launched a campaign to criticize World Cup host Qatar for its abhorrent record on LGBTQ+ rights and migrant labor, mainly of Asian origin. While justified, the campaign has been widely castigated as selective, hypocritical, and indicative of a double standard. China has found a chance to exploit this apparent Western grudge against the first Arab and Muslim country to host the World Cup. In addition to a Chinese construction company building Lusail Stadium, which will host the World Cup final, other firms supplied the tournament with everything “made in China”—from LED big screens, a solar power plant, and clean energy shuttle vehicles, to flags and throw pillows.

China knows how this feels. It has been chastened in the past while hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics with diplomatic boycotts and a similar media crusade for its “genocide” against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. There is no doubt that the reasoning behind such campaigns is entirely just. But going soft on hosts with even worse human rights records, as was the case with Russia in 2018, while scolding Qatar is mindboggling. 

These kinds of media campaigns can be self-harming at best for two reasons. First, they signal that Western countries, especially Europeans, will seek to maintain hegemony over soccer by wielding prejudice. Second, they encourage China (and other rivals) to score geopolitical points by doubling down on smaller countries’ grievances toward those over-the-top media offensives and positioning China as a viable alternative and trusted leader of the Global South. Years of backbreaking diplomatic work to confront China’s soft power expansion in the Middle East is now at risk.

Ahmed Aboudouh is a nonresident fellow with the Middle East Programs at the Atlantic Council and a senior journalist covering world affairs at the Independent newspaper in London.

NOVEMBER 22, 2022 | 8:39 AM WASHINGTON | 4:39 PM QATAR

Watch for the Iran team’s small acts of defiance to continue

By Masoud Mostajabi

In the history of the World Cup, Iran has qualified a total of six times—five under the Islamic Republic. Since the 1979 revolution, Iranians across the globe have agreed on little. But when it has come to supporting Team Melli (“the nation’s team”), all have cheered—until now. At the 2018 Cup, Iran’s win over Morocco provoked celebration among the likes of exiles and diaspora communities, then Islamic Republic President Hassan Rouhani, and former heir apparent to the throne Reza Pahlavi—an outpouring stemming from a shared membership in a national family. 

However, for the first time in memory, this year many Iranians have soured on the team, thanks in large part to Team Melli’s meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi before traveling to Qatar—which came amid the deadly crackdowns by Raisi’s security services against protesters. The team’s silent protest by refusing to sing the national anthem on Monday was widely seen as too little too late. Iranians expect more from a team they consider a representative of the people. In a country losing its youth, a loss or win in a tournament is meaningless. Unlike most fans enjoying the games, Iranians are in mourning. 

However, these players are themselves part of this generation of youth, having grown up watching heroes such as Ali Daei and Ali Karimi, vocal supporters of today’s protests. Many of the players have commented in support of the protestors, changed their social media profile photo to black, or covered up the national emblem. It’s early in the tournament, so the world can watch for these small acts of defiance to continue—with Friday’s match against Wales the next major opportunity.

Masoud Mostajabi is an associate director at the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Programs. Follow him on Twitter @MMostajabi1.

NOVEMBER 21, 2022 | 10:22 AM WASHINGTON | 6:55 PM QATAR

Why Iran’s subtle stance is being seen as “meaningless” 

By Holly Dagres

Since antigovernment protests began in Iran on September 16 after Mahsa Jina Amini was murdered by so-called “morality police,” many Iranian athletes competing in international competitions have taken clear stances that show solidarity with the protesters. But one group of athletes that has disappointed Iranians is Team Melli, the Iranian men’s national soccer team. Except for heaving worn black jackets over their kits during a World Cup friendly with Senegal on September 27, Team Melli has not taken a notable stance.  

However, what has caught the attention of many Iranians is that Team Melli met with hardline President Ebrahim Raisi last week and took celebratory photos of their World Cup entry. Photographs of both incidents have gone viral, and not for a good reason, as these events took place while protesters were being fatally beaten with batons or shot by security forces. As a result, many Iranians see Team Melli not as their team, but rather as the team of the Islamic Republic. This was best captured by a banner hanging over a bridge in Tehran that read “don’t let your foot slip on the blood,” referring to the blood of both protesters slain since September 16 and those being killed by security forces while the match between England and Iran took place. Right before the game began, Team Melli finally took a subtle stance by remaining silent during the Islamic Republic’s anthem. While their silence and stony faces may seem significant to an outsider, it’s a belated gesture that many Iranians interpret as meaningless given how little Team Melli has done to show solidarity with their international platform. 

Holly Dagres is editor of the Atlantic Council’s IranSource blog, and a nonresident senior fellow with the Middle East Programs. She also curates The Iranist newsletter. Follow her on Twitter: @hdagres. 

NOVEMBER 20, 2022 | 4:15 PM WASHINGTON | NOVEMBER 21, 2022 | 12:15 AM QATAR

Focus on Qatar’s human-rights record is justified—but why have other hosts been left unscathed? 

By Joze Pelayo

Despite the loud beats of FIFA anthem “Tukoh Taka,” World Cup watchers can still clearly hear the outrage against Qatar. 

The significance of the first World Cup in the Arab world has been overshadowed by legitimate criticism about the country’s track record on minority rights and treatment of migrant workers. Serious abuses need to be addressed.  

But Western coverage so far has been based on double standards and selective outrage; were the calls for a boycott of Russia’s World Cup in 2018 and the Beijing Olympics in 2022 this loud? The Biden administration had announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing event due to China’s ongoing genocide against Uyghurs. Russia used its 2018 World Cup, and also its 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, to sportswash and distract the world from Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Crimea—a prelude to today’s invasion—and the Russian leader’s increasingly imperialistic ambitions. Where was the outrage from European critics then?  

Qatar is the first Arab and Muslim-majority country to host the World Cup—so one wonders whether that is the variable that makes Qatar the target of critical countries. Or, will countries critical of Qatar this year similarly scrutinize the 2026 host countries—Canada, the United States, and Mexico—regarding migrants’ rights? 

Qatar’s mistreatment of predominantly South Asian workers is deplorable, and criticism is justified. But the selective outrage shown mainly from some countries in Europe is also borderline arrogant and racist.  

On a brighter note, the United States’ Nicki Minaj, Colombia’s Maluma, and Lebanon’s Myriam Fares are bringing the Arab-Latin relationship and a shared passion for soccer to a new level with “Tukoh Taka,” which features English, Spanish, and Arabic lyrics. The song briefly reached number one in iTunes in the United States, making it the highest-charting FIFA World Cup song ever—and Fares the first Arab artist to reach such a spot in the United States.

Joze Pelayo is an assistant director at the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative/Middle East Programs.

Further reading

Related Experts: Holly Dagres and Joze Pelayo

Image: A fan inside the stadium before the match on November 20, 2022. Photo via REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh.