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There is something about the World Cup that is bothering me, and I feel as if it is of crucial importance to write about it and share it with all of you. No this is not about VAR.
I am talking about the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
This is not some bitter Australian ranting about how we were robbed in the bidding process. Never mind the soaring temperatures in the summer or the disruption to the other football leagues in the world by having it held in the Summer.
No this is a matter that goes beyond football.
This is a matter to do with the treatment of migrant workers in the 21st century. According to a report by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), it is estimated that 1200 migrant workers have died to construct the facilities for the World Cup.
1200 people who voluntarily left their home countries, on the promise of sending money over to their families, many of whom are under the poverty line. And now they will never get to see them again.
When Sepp Blatter awarded this tiny country the hosting rights, they made promises to reform their controversial migrant worker systems. However, eight years after this happened the Kalfahla system is still in place in Qatar.
What this system means, is that migrant workers have in-country ‘sponsors’ that oversee their visas and their legal rights. When these workers leave for Qatar (paying a loan to do so), they have their passports confiscated, are forced to work long hours in the heat (often for little wages) and subjected to deplorable accommodations.
If this sounds like modern-day slavery, this is because it is. A recent documentary by ESPN exposed some of the stories that the workers have had. One detailed how he cannot leave the country (as his employer would not give consent for it), how he had seen at least three people die within a week and how he had not received a break from work since he got there.
Human rights abuse is rampant in Qatar. Homosexuality is still a crime in the country and can be punishable by death. Such an absurd law is made even more infuriating when something such as domestic violence is completely legal within Qatar, and there is no freedom of speech.
I can understand the appeal of a World Cup in the Middle East, but only if it is done properly. A country such as Qatar shows a complete lack of respect for human life everywhere.
It is estimated in the ITUC report that nearly 4000 people will die before the completion of the stadiums, most likely to be more. I question how many deaths is it going to take before FIFA and their sponsors will actually take action.
It is worrying, that an organisation such as FIFA can accumulate billions in revenue while ignoring the blatant human rights abuses going on in Qatar.
No. FIFA will not act unless it directly affects their profitability. When this happens, they will spring to action. We know this because this has already happened.
FIFA’s response to an Amnesty International report condemning the practices of Qatar claimed that it was not their responsibility to be involved in the political affairs of host countries. The hypocrisy of this statement cannot be underestimated.
In 2014 FIFA successfully lobbied the Brazilian government to overturn a ban on the sale of alcohol at stadiums. They did this quite simply because one of their major sponsors was Budweiser.
In 2010 FIFA created their own magistrate’s courts (dubbed the FIFA Courts) to dispel South Africa’s reputation as a ‘crime country’ and encourage more tourists to attend the World Cup.
We should all be boycotting the World Cup in 2022. This is a country that continually exploits human life and the fact that it has shown no improvements in the past eight years to reform its outdated practices demonstrates how this is only going to continue.
For anyone to support this World Cup is to support the choices of the Qatari government. This includes the supporting of state-sanctioned murder and slavery.
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We had hoped that the FIFA corruption scandal in 2015 would be the catalyst to remove the tournament but this is not going to be the case.
We can all act on social media, but unless something drastic occurs that affects the reputations and brands of FIFA’s sponsors, then nothing will change. We need to make it clear to the many sponsors of FIFA, that by continuing to support FIFA they are supporting the continued abuse of human rights in Qatar.
FIFA needs to strip the rights from Qatar. Not because of footballing reasons, but because of human reasons, but this will never happen. As we become more socially aware in the world, I remain somewhat hopeful that such an event like the Qatari World Cup will never happen again.
I will give credit to Gianni Infantino for reforming the voting procedures for the World Cup, but if FIFA wants to send a message to the rest of the globe and change their reputation in the wake of the corruption scandal, then removing the World Cup from Qatar would be the best way to do it.