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Atlantic City native at forefront of security detail for FIFA World Cup

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Kenneth Greenblatt

Atlantic City native Kenneth Greenblatt has been in the Middle East for 16 months, preparing for when American soccer fans would come to visit Doha, Qatar, for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Germany’s players covered their mouths during their team photo ahead of their game against Japan at the World Cup. The gesture follows FIFA threatening sanctions against any player who wore a “OneLove" armband at the World Cup.

Atlantic City native Kenneth Greenblatt doesn’t consider himself a soccer fan, but for the past 16 months, he’s made sure 50,000 American fans are safe at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

“My number one priority is keeping Americans in Doha and the team safe,” Greenblatt, who works for the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service as the senior World Cup security coordinator in Qatar, said in a Rutgers University news release. “That has meant building trust and relationships with counterparts from Germany, France, England, Turkey and mostly with Qataris.”

Greenblatt was raised in Mexico and Atlantic City, growing up to develop a career in national security. He’s served as a special agent for the Diplomatic Security Service resident office in Colorado. He’s also served two U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and human rights advocate Samantha Power.

He also has worked on security efforts in the Middle East.

This year, Greenblatt was chosen to coordinate all U.S. government security and law enforcement support for the World Cup, working with Qatar security services and partners from more than 13 countries.

The World Cup is being played among teams from 32 countries in a small Middle Eastern nation that shares a border with Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.

Greenblatt, a 1995 Rutgers graduate, started the assignment on Aug. 15, 2021, under tense conditions.

Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, had been overthrown by the Taliban, shifting the nation’s government and forcing the U.S. into a fierce evacuation operation. Soccer was on hold, and Greenblatt, who had over 20 years in the Diplomatic Security Service, helped in those evacuation efforts.

“I’ve been in dangerous positions where I had to apply my training and skills, remain cool and calm, and do what I can to keep people safe,” said Greenblatt, who has a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.

His World Cup assignment included connecting with high-ranking people from the Ministry of Interior and FIFA, setting up security policies to keep American visitors safe.

The job, like others, is sensitive, Greenblatt said.

“You can’t overlook anything,” he said. “There are so many moving parts, and you must make sure you do all you can to ensure that there is proper coordination and no lack of communication or any distrust.”

While in Colorado before the World Cup, Greenblatt’s special-agent duties included leading a team that investigated and prosecuted federal human trafficking crimes, as well as hunting down international fugitives and thwarting U.S. passport and visa fraud.

Born to a Mexican-American single mother, Greenblatt grew up with two brothers in Atlantic City. His mother worked two jobs to care for her sons under poor economic conditions.

Becoming a Scarlet Knight altered Greenblatt’s path, he said.

“Rutgers made such a difference for me,” Greenblatt said. “It gave me the chance I needed.”

At Rutgers, Greenblatt graduated with honors with a dual degree in history and political science, serving as president of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He also founded and was president of Students Engaged at Rutgers for Volunteering (SERV), as well as president of the McCormick Suites residence hall.

Not many others he grew up with were as fortunate, he said.

“No one who I grew up with went to college,” Greenblatt said. “Rutgers was so diverse that it helped me learn how to deal with people from all over the world.”

Before landing the job with the State Department and the Foreign Service, Greenblatt worked for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in New York, spending two months at ground zero of the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

His career has prepared him for the daunting tasks associated with Qatar, he said.

“As the senior World Cup security coordinator for the Diplomatic Security Service, my job is to help protect U.S. citizens, the U.S. Men’s National Team, U.S. corporate stakeholders and members of the U.S. media, and that means working closely with our U.S., local and international security partners to get the job done right,” said Greenblatt. “Security is a team effort.

Contact Eric Conklin:


Twitter @ACPressConklin

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