The World Cup is arguably the largest political, social and economic event in sports and it required a plan for coverage that went far beyond the games.
The World Cup staff covered multiple angles in all formats during the first week of the tournament in Qatar. Among the examples that resonated far beyond football fans: Mideast correspondent Isabel DeBre and Persian Gulf and Iran news director Jon Gambrell reported a story about migrant workers watching the World Cup far from the glitzy stadiums they helped build in and around Doha; Climate reporter Suman Naishadham wrote about Lusail City, the ultra-modern and mostly empty city near Doha built for this World Cup with an uncertain future. Sustainability was also an important topic ahead of the tournament, and advance planning paid off with Naishadham’s deep dive into Qatar’s green claims and climate risks at home -- and TikTok and Instagram reels video that accompanied the story.
Gambrell and sportswriter Ronald Blum broke news about the U.S. soccer federation's decision to scrub the Islamic Republic's emblem from Iran's flag on its social media accounts ahead of a crucial Iran-U.S. match. DeBre and sportswriter Ciaran Fahey reported on protests and tensions surrounding Iran's game. Geneva-based Sportswriter and FIFA insider Graham Dunbar reported the organizer’s decision to ban beer sales from the stadiums.
Photographer Abbie Parr’s stunning images illustrated Gambrell’s story about migrant workers’ love of cricket, the most popular sport among the over 2 million foreign laborers who come mostly from South and Southeast Asia. Doha-based VJ Lujain Jo and Naishadham shed light on an unintended consequence of an estimated 1 million visitors landing on the tiny Gulf emirate: thousands of tourists looking for a perfect Instagram moment in the desert strained the camels used for dune rides.
Customers responded, with coverage regularly in the top tier for page views and engagement on AP platforms. The Islamic flag scoop was quoted by major media names, including ESPN, USA Today and the Washington Post.
For resonant coverage that extended far beyond sports, AP's coverage of the World Cup is this week's Second Winner.