“Not only is the Qatar World Cup in the wrong place and time, but it’s a labour and environmental disaster… some have called it the “dangerous games” as thousands of migrant workers have died preparing Qatar to host the World Cup.”
By Murad Qureshi
It is quite clear that the Qatar FIFA World Cup is going to be a future textbooks case of “sports washing.”
This after spending a few hundred billion on their infrastructure and exploiting cheap labour from South Asia. The figures for fatalities are astonishing compared to other sporting occasions where new infrastructure had to be built, with several thousand dead allegedly from their work activities in the baking heat. I first went there about 10 years ago, into Qatar’s labour camps to have a look on the appalling exploitation of migrant workers. The conditions were terrible, akin to slavery. Abuses aren’t limited to that regime though so FIFA is complicit in all this World Cup sportswashing.
The ostensive reason why Qatar was chosen was its promise to spread further throughout the Arab world the joy that football already brings to billions. Quite honestly there were much better countries in the Arab world to have hosted the World Cup like Egypt with its clear football tradition and Cairo would have been able to absorb the many football fans unlike Doha though it has a military dictatorship instead.
A report in 2018 into the working conditions of one stadium being built by 4,500 men reported some improvements to the pressure of exposure but workers from Bangladesh, Ghana, India and Nepal were being paid as little as £40 a week. If there was a team from one of the migrant countries in the World Cup, l am sure many of us would be supporting them in solidarity.
But for all the recent talk of calls for boycotts to protest Qatar’s record on poor labour conditions, discriminatory laws and general lack of democratic rights, these issues were known about before the bid and are far from unique across the Arabian Peninsula. The kalafa system of binding migrant labour to their employers needs overhauling in the whole of the Middle East. It should have made quite clear what labour standards were expected before anyone bids to host the World Cup by FIFA.
And it isn’t only Qatar exploiting labour from other countries. As the Mirror reveals recently factory workers are paid just £1 an hour to make England’s £115 World Cup shirts in Thailand. And the Telegraph, tells us of even lower pay for Bangladeshi workers on 21p per hour.
As the Qatar FIFA World Cup also begins immediately after COP27 its climate change impact can not be any more emphasised. As we have a World Cup hosted by a petrodollar economy at no expense but those of the environment! It is estimated that the Qatar World Cup has 10 times the carbon impact of the previous Russian World Cup 2018 as almost all the fans will be flown into and out of Qatar on a daily basis from other Middle Eastern hubs, as Doha will not be able to accommodate all the fans at all. Quite honestly it would have been much better if they had made a major contribution to reducing global warming with these monies and initiatives as a petrodollar economy at the COP instead.
So not only is the Qatar World Cup in the wrong place and time, but it’s a labour and environmental disaster. That is why some have called it the “dangerous games” as thousands of migrant workers have died preparing Qatar to host the World Cup. In an environmentally overheating one as well and just the beginning of a contrast against recent COP in the Middle East. That is why l won’t be going to this world cup tournament as l have done to previous ones, and watch the football spectacle from the safety of our shores instead.
- Murad Qureshi is a human rights campaigner and former Member of the London Assembly. You can follow him on twitter here.