World Cup 2022 host Qatar has been accused of Huma Right violations ahead of the showpiece soccer event. Picture: EPA
World Cup 2022 host Qatar has been accused of Huma Right violations ahead of the showpiece soccer event. Picture: EPA

Qatar 2022 ... Human lives sacrificed in the name of football

By Mark Keohane Time of article published Mar 27, 2021

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THE coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down but it doesn't seem to have altered the way of life, economically and financially, when it comes to football and footballers.

Something is very wrong with our world when 6 500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lank die in Qatar in the 10 years since the country was confirmed as the 2022 Fifa Soccer World Cup hosts.

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I am an avid reader of news, arts, sports and whatever else my time allows. Among the stories that grabbed my attention this week was The Guardian's investigation into labour rights and the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar.

The investigation quoted Nick McGeehan, a director at FairSquare Projects, whose company specialises in labour rights in the Gulf.

McGeehan made the claim that the most significant proportion of migrant workers who had died since 2011 were in the country because of the 2022 World Cup.

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In that time, seven new stadiums, an airport, roads, public transport systems, a metro, hotels and a new city have been built. The estimated cost is £138 billion (about R2.8 trillion).

Fifa, according to its projections, stands to gain in excess of £3bn from the 2022 World Cup, while labourers, who make up 95% of the workforce on all the World Cup sites, are paid £8.50 an hour.

Germany players pose for a photo displaying a Human Rights message on their t-shirts in relation to the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar. Picture: Tobias Schwarz/Reuters

Country authorities and Fifa have vehemently denied the alleged number of deaths, but have not provided detailed statistics to prove otherwise.

Fifa's leadership has also recently gone on a charm offensive in an attempt to convince the world that this will not be a World Cup tainted by labour abuse.

It certainly needs more than a charm offensive.

The decision to award Qatar the World Cup is one that has been beset by accusations of corruption, bribery and every underhanded deal imaginable. Post the awarding of the event, several of the most prominent Fifa executives have been charged and convicted when it comes to corruption, bribery and every type of unethical corporate and business practice.

Yet, Qatar's right to continue to host the most premier global sporting event was not called into question.

Cash!

That's why.

This World Cup will be as tarnished as the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Back then the most infamous imagery was that of the Olympic rings being replaced with a pair of handcuffs to emphasise crimes against child labour and the exploitation of migrant workers.

Many stories were documented about the blood that was spilt in preparing Beijing for the Summer Olympics.

But the controversy, post the 2008 Olympics, sadly died as quick a death as so many of the migrant workers did in the build-up to what was supposed to be an event that symbolised the human spirit.

More than a decade on and it is like reading horror stories from 2008 all over again.

When it is ever going to be enough?

Not in my lifetime… not ever. At least that is the realist in me speaking.

Which doesn't mean it shouldn't be written about, spoken about and shared daily.

The more who know, the more who object and the more who rally, hell, who knows, perhaps some good will come from it and human lives won't so easily be sacrificed in the name of sport, and in this case, specifically soccer?

The amount paid to professional footballers is insane and out of sync with the rest of the planet's inhabitants, but even this imbalance doesn't compare with the number of human lives lost to a sporting event that is yet to be played.

It is sickening.

@mark_keohane

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