The FIFA world cup is fast approaching, and amidst speculation regarding the hosting of the world cup in an Arab country, the controversy of unfair labor practices, and the weather, fans are still buoyant of a spectacle.
Where does football go after Qatar 2022?
FIFA has stated that the world cup that is planned for Qatar, in the UAE is going to be played in the winter, rather than in the summer- a historic event all around. Tickets for the FIFA Arab Cup went on sale on September 28th and fans will be on the lookout for the first batch of tickets for the greatest sporting event on Earth.
In 2010, the world witnessed history as one of the best world cups was played for the very first time in the African continent. Fans traveled to South Africa despite multiple negative media takes on the tournament taking place, and to everyone’s delight, it played out in an amazing fashion.
The next world cup is not only special because it’s being hosted in the Gulf, but for the past two years the world witnessed one of the worst pandemics in recent times, and nothing brings people back together like a great sporting event.
Despite so much positivity surrounding the next installment of the FIFA World Cup, there has been much publicity surrounding the very blatant human rights issues faced by workers employed by the Qatari government. Finnish captain Tim Sparv is one amongst many that has openly spoken out against the practices by the Qatari officials, however, FIFA has denied allegations and have stated that Qatar is working on improving working conditions as they look to close in on the opening ceremony in just over a year’s time.
What is the issue surrounding Qatar 2022?
When Qatar won the rights to host the World Cup in 2010, no one batted an eyelid. However, since then, there’s been a lot of unfair treatment of migrant workers in the Gulf state. Reuters have reported that the minimum wage has increased to $275 per month, and the restrictions to change employers have decreased allowing for a smoother transition to a new job.
This is a start start considering the incredibly expensive rentals and lifestyle in the Gulf state, with thousands of migrant workers moving to the gulf state in search of better working life, to accommodate for the various expenses that their families have back home. British newspaper The Guardian reported that there were at least 6,500 migrant worker deaths in Qatar since it won the hosting rights.
Following this, German, Dutch and Norwegian players have raised concerns regarding the issue by wearing shirts that highlight the plight of immigrant workers, prior to international matches. Qatari officials have stated that the deaths were within a reasonable rate and that they have decreased since then, however, the issue persists.
Mouin Rabbani, Editor of Quick Thoughts and Jadaliyya Co-Editor, interviewed Hiba Zayadin, Gulf researcher at Human Rights Watch, to get a better understanding of the issues involved- Hiba spoke of the culminating issues surrounding migrant workers that stem from the time of recruitment. Workers pay extreme amounts of recruitment fees and get into debts before they even start working. This creates a snowball effect where often they’re not paid enough, or they’re tied to companies that confiscate their passports and visas, or because of their “Kafala” (Sponsorship) system that makes it difficult for workers to change employers.
A few months ago, the Qatar Shura council put forward a set of recommendations which, if accepted by the government, would undo much of the progress brought about by reforms, including by re-imposing restrictions on the rights of workers to change jobs and leave the country.
“FIFA must act now to ensure that the 2022 World Cup is a tournament to be proud of, and not one tainted by labor abuses“
Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International
Amnesty International is another organization who like Tim Sparv request the fans to rally and ensure that the FIFA World Cup, loved by millions isn’t accomplished off the lives of migrant workers. Fans of football generally always stand up to injustice, as noted with the most recent fight against racism and police brutality.
Officials have held meetings, most recently in March to discuss the ongoing issues that are systematic, and this would require severe reforms within the entire Qatari government, who employs 95% immigrants in its total workforce. The question to ask is what can realistically be done to improve the conditions of immigrant workers past the world cup in 2022? The answer to that would require fans to employ a political lens and politics and football seem to always end up mixing.
No country that has hosted the World Cup was without its issues, Brazil had its corruption scandals like South Africa, so did Russia in 2018, those issues never seemed to halt the World Cup from being successful. Fans always seem to support the tournament regardless, and the economy benefits immensely due to tourism, food, and tickets.
Looking Beyond 2022
Whilst all eyes are on Qatar for 2022, the 2026 World Cup is scheduled to be hosted in a tumultuous North America- the USA, Canada, and Mexico. With all the recent issues facing America, both systematically and politically, football fans will undoubtedly be faced with increasing political issues that affect the footballing world.
Football is most certainly involved with politics these days, from racism to corruption, it doesn’t seem to exclude anyone. Everyone has an opinion and will continue to, as a fan we can hope that the powers that be ie. FIFA, UEFA, and the respective government officials eradicate the corruption within their systems and ensure that at the very least, basic human rights are met at every footballing tournament.
One can hope that FIFA and UEFA work with governments, fans, and clubs-especially at a local level to more so educate, rather than punish those that still harbor racist and corrupt ideologies. Whilst the punishment for racism may stop the majority, the repercussions for those that commit the offense are embarrassing. Patrice Evra notably called for education reforms to combat racism instead of match bans and fines, as they do nothing to change the mindset.
As a fan, whilst we can plead to govern bodies, and officials to ensure that these systematic issues are resolved, we at a grassroots level need to take a stand and sweep the front stairs of our neighborhood, in any way that we can. Rather than taking a passive approach, fans need to call out, assist in and provide the necessary education, and means of ensuring that our own communities, clubs, and cities are changing to be more inclusive and accommodating.
Despite the world falling into chaos around us, Football has always kept fans in positive spirits. It has the power to unite millions, despite rivalries and competition, and that is the spirit that fans need to carry onward, outside of Football. For every four years that was as fans look forward too, workers spend that time in immensely difficult situations, working conditions and unfair salaries.
What will FIFA do to ensure that those workers that make their tournaments such a success have the best working conditions? We can only hope and wait, but until then, we can say to those affected “You’ll never walk alone”.
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Main image credits: Embed from Getty Images