The decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar didn’t bother me in particular, for me, World Cups are a chance to watch great footballers playing for teams I don’t have a vested interest in. That changed when reports of hundreds of deaths of foreign migrants, allowed in to build the infrastructure required to host the tournament.
The Indian embassy in Qatar report that the death rate of their nationals involved in construction projects in Qatar is reaching epidemic levels. 233 died in 2010, 239 in 2011, 237 in 2013 and 241 in 2013. 24 died in January this year, a total of 998 since the beginning of 2010. This is a blight on humanity.
The Guardian revealed that 197 Nepalese died in 2012 and 185 died in 2013. Many of the deaths are no characterised as classic construction accidents, the heat and environmental conditions, together with the lack of facilities for immigrants, mean many die of ‘natural’ causes, including heart failure, there are other nationals there too, also dying in alarming numbers.
Labour MP, Jim Murphy, last month said, “Some of the practices we know are taking place in Qatar amount to forced labour, and there are widespread concerns that the death toll could reach well into the thousands if nothing is done.” The International Trade Union Confederation estimate (without needing to extrapolate greatly) up to 4,000 workers could die before the country is ready to host the tournament.
The prospect of a sea of blood on the pitch has not been enough to convince Fifa to call a halt to the slaughter, or at least use the threat of withdrawal to ensure migrants experience safe and humane living and working conditions.
As the tournament draws nearer, pressure groups will become better organised, but by that time, many more will have died. As fans, or, in this instance, to adopt our more effective role as consumers of TV and companies who sponsor the tournament, we have a lot of work to do, and we need to start now.
Before Fifa act they will need a lot of encouragement from sponsors, unhappy at the prospect of their brands being associated with a death trade, and they will need approval from the lawyers. Qatar ‘invested’ hugely in football as they were busy vacuuming up votes, including buying real estate on the front of Barcelona’s shirts, once regarded as an ethically responsible club. The platform association with UNICEF looks like blatant opportunism.
Today’s Telegraph offers Fifa a chance to call a halt to the project. They allege former Fifa vice president, Jack Warner and his family, were paid $2m just weeks after Qatar were awarded the tournament. The Qatar authorities deny wrongdoing.
This is perhaps the most important article concerning the football industry in decades as it opens a door to stop the despair of thousands of workers living in abject poverty and mortal danger. According to the Telegraph, law enforcement agencies are already active on this issue. They need to quickly establish if the Qatar bid was assisted by criminal activity before the tournament can be withdrawn. The danger is that irrespective of what law enforcement agencies uncover, or who ultimately goes to jail, there is so much illicit cash floating around Fifa that those in positions of power will protect their paymasters.
Before this happens, you, me, our clubs, and whoever cares from the various football associations, must organise and turn up the pressure on the criminals with their snouts in the Fifa trough. If we pass up on this opportunity, we could wait decades for the next chance to rid the top of our game of criminals.
Seville – The Celtic Movement is available now:
“Of course we’d loved Blackburn, Stuttgart, Liverpool etc, but with twenty minutes to go in Oporto, I sat with my stomach recreating a range of football related sinking feelings from the past. You know, being told I was ‘rubbish’ by the high school team prima donna as another of his cannonball passes rocketed out for a shy under my foot, or the time I ran home from primary school to watch Celtic lose to…. someone…on a black and white television during the seventies. I’ve never wanted to find out who we lost to or what year it was. The memory is more intriguing left blurry like footage of the moon landings.”
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