FIFA’s recent announcement that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will take place in November/December just undermines what everyone who lives outside of FIFA headquarters knows – that the World Cup never should have been awarded to Qatar in the first place. At this point, the apparent corruption, miscalculations, lack of commonsense judgment, and all-around bloated, cartoonish villainy surrounding FIFA and its Qatar World Cup is so ridiculous that it hardly matters anymore what time of year the tournament takes place. FIFA will do what FIFA wants and that has become the big problem.
Last May, ESPN’s Jeremy Schapp produced this heartbreaking story for E:60 about the mistreatment of foreign workers in Qatar. It is essential viewing, stunning in its report of workers lured from countries like India, Pakistan, and Nepal by the promise of decent wages (which they could use to help support families back home) to work on stadium and infrastructure construction projects for the 2022 World Cup.
As Schapp reports, Qatar has less than 300,000 citizens, so over one million foreign workers comprise 94% of Qatar’s labor force. Once in Qatar, these foreign workers are made to sign restrictive labor contracts that make it impossible for them to leave the country (their employers even take possession of the workers’ passports). Hundreds of these workers have died of cardiac arrest attributable to extreme working conditions, poor diet, and unsanitary living quarters. Schapp interviewed Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, who says “Qatar is a slave state in the 21st century… [for these workers] It’s a life of squalor. You are trapped in Qatar.”
Unfortunately the E:60 story made few ripples in the media, swamped instead by the pre-Brazil 2014 World Cup hype. Naturally, people will find reasons to protest the World Cup taking place in just about any country in the world (Russia 2018 is a topic for another day), but the lack of human decency toward workers in Qatar as reported by Schapp is particularly grievous.
Disturbingly, FIFA has the leverage and resources to easily stop these abuses yet stubbornly refuses to do so. At the very least FIFA could and should pay for full-time inspectors on the ground in Qatar to help ensure these workers receive basic, fair protections. FIFA would never miss the money it would take to construct basic apartments for these workers that would easily be more luxurious than the sites where so many currently dwell.