The first match of the 2014 World Cup hasn’t even been played yet, but it’s already caused dilemmas for certain groups of fans. Brazilians, for instance, are considering rooting for the country’s rivals in protest of the billions their dysfunctional government has spent to host the tournament. Some Americans, meanwhile, wonder if they should ditch a U.S. team doomed for failure (Group of Death!) and instead back a foreign squad. Then there’s the vexing problem jihadis face: Though expressly forbidden from loving anything “Western,” they really, really love futbol.
Some terrorist groups, like the Nigerian Boko Haram, specifically target people for watching football. In late May, a suicide bomber killed three people in Jos, Nigeria, in an attack on a group of fans who were watching the European Champions League match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
But some terrorist groups are using people’s passion for soccer as a way to connect with potential jihadi supporters. In stark contrast to Boko Haram’s tactics, the jihadi group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has featured soccer in its propaganda campaigns multiple times this year. They faked a video depicting famous French footballer Lassana Diarra as a jihadi fighter in Syria, sparking a rumor that went so viral that Diarra was forced to deny the claims. (“He has never set foot in Syria,” said his lawyer.)