The Qatar World Cup should be a watershed moment in sports journalism

It is vital that journalists continue to apply the same critical lens they’ve used on the Qatar World Cup when the tournament comes to Canada, Mexico and the US in four years’ time.

Hours before the world cup final in Qatar, Adiplomatic delegation from three host counties of the 2026 World Cup- Canada, Mexico, and United State meet with dignitaries in the coastal city of Doha to hand over responsibility for the 2026 edition of the tournament.

The delegation, represented by Canada’s transport minister Omar Alghabra, US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Mexican Football Federation president Yon de Luisa, were photographed receiving a ceremonial ball from Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, president of the Qatar Olympic Committee. The symbolic gesture signaled the closing stages of one of the most controversial sporting events in modern history – an event marked by show-stopping soccer, appalling human rights abuses, and dystopian displays of wealth and luxury.

And despite accusations of bribery, abuses of migrant workers, and the criminalization of same-sex relationships, the wealthy Gulf peninsula succeeded in hosting the world’s most popular sporting event, culminating in a thrilling match between France and Argentina that will be remembered as one of the best tournament finals in decades.

apply their skills to other societal contexts, including the West.

There are countless examples of concerns worthy of extensive reporting ahead of the 2026 tri-nation World Cup. And while each of the three host countries has repeatedly restated its commitment to human rights and democratic freedoms, it is crucial that sports journalists continue to hold their governments accountable. This is especially true as sports continue to have significant geo-political and socio-economic influence.

Over the past decade, I have made a career of reporting on the intersection of sports and politics around the world. My reporting spans more than two dozen countries in six continents, covering everything from the beautiful game to the sweet science. Consequently, that experience has helped shape my understanding of the role that sports play in the modern political landscape. However, the most recent edition of the World Cup was the first time I felt the topic was part of a prevailing narrative rather than a one of niche consideration. I would like to believe that this profound shift is not a temporary one and that we will not return to the worn-out cliché of keeping sports out of politics.

If we want the legacy of this World Cup to be a watershed moment in how we report on the intersection of sports and politics, it is vital that journalists continue to reflect and report on that intersection at the next World Cup and other future global sports events in democratic countries.

We have crossed the Rubicon. There is no turning back now.

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