• Steven Morano

Migrant Workers 2022 World Cup

The FIFA World Cup in 2022 will be hosted by the oil-rich nation of Qatar. They won the bid to host the tournament in 2010 and have since undertaken a massive building project to construct stadiums to hold the matches for the tournament. Like many other countries in the region, Qatar has undertaken the “Kafala” system of work sponsorship for migrant workers from countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Kafala system promotes abysmal treatment of migrant workers through low-paying wages (or lack thereof), restrictions in movement of workers and horrible conditions of labor camps where most of these migrant workers live. At the heart of the Kafala system is the right of the employer to hold a worker’s visa or passport. This in turn causes a lack of movement for workers to return to their home country.


The International Break, where players from club soccer teams go back to their home country to play for their national team, happened between March 24 and 30. Within that time, many European national teams such as Germany, the Netherlands and Norway have all demonstrated against the abhorrent conditions of workers in Qatar. A triggering factor has been the February report in the British newspaper The Guardian that over 6,500 migrant workers have died building stadiums for the World Cup in 2022. This sparked outrage all over the world and the problems with the Qatari government’s use of the Kafala system and the treatment of workers resurfaced.


The Norwegian national team were first to send a message about the treatment of workers in Qatar by wearing shirts in the pre-match warm up against Gibraltar, reading “Human Rights, On and Off the Pitch.” In their game against Latvia, the Dutch national team wore shirts in their warm-up saying, “Football Supports Change.” The German national team in their pre-match line up wore shirts that spelled out “Human Rights.”


It was suspected that the English national team were also going to demonstrate in solidarity with workers in Qatar. Instead, Gareth Southgate, manager of the English national team said that, “The FA [Football Association] are working closely with Amnesty International and will be talking with Qatar as well.” He also talked about how he thinks that Amnesty International don’t want to get the games moved, but to work with the Qatari government to better insure workers rights.


There is some resistance within the international scene regarding whether to even have the World Cup in Qatar. Toni Kroos, a German international team player said on the Einfach Mal Luppen podcast that, “I don’t agree with awarding the World Cup to Qatar and there are plenty of reasons why. Migrant workers work non-stop, sometimes in 50-degree heat [122 degrees Fahrenheit].” He also added that “some [migrant workers] don’t have enough food or water, which is insane,” and that “homosexuality is still considered a criminal offense in Qatar and is prosecuted.” Kroos ended his interview saying “Can a boycott really bring change? I don’t think so, but football, with its global reach, could maybe draw attention to these problems.”


However, with an estimated 6,500 migrant workers dead for the sake of building stadiums for this event, some think it is too late for a boycott. Joshua Kimmich, another German international said, “I think we are ten years too late to boycott the World Cup. It was not allocated this year, but a couple of years ago. One should have thought about boycotting back then.”