In a recent issue, Time magazine focused their attention on the world stage of football, the 2022 World Cup, titled ‘The Dangerous Game’.* This, among other news articles, have shed light upon the appalling human rights violations which occurred in Qatar against the migrant workers who built the stadiums where the World Cup games are being hosted.
Aryn Baker brought a harrowing story of the working conditions that were seen by many constructing the multiple stadiums erected for the World Cup. With extreme heat of up to forty-four degrees Celsius and a humidity of around 70%, workers ‘grew accustomed to the bloody noses, headaches, muscle cramps, and vomiting that accompanied work in Qatar’s May-through-September summer season’.* Shockingly, the International Trade Union Confederation ‘published an expose warning that some 4,000 migrant workers would likely die before the opening match as a result of the country’s exploitative labour practices’.* With such a high risk of injury and discomfort, it is astounding to believe such practices are allowed when comparing worker’s rights in Qatar to the UK, as legislation such as the Employment Rights Act 1996 gives workers the right to claim for constructive dismissal and compensation for a failure to maintain safe working conditions. With such practices, it is clear why there has been recent criticism of FIFA, with Netflix recently putting out a limited series looking into how host countries are selected.
Despite the unfortunate politics of the 2022 World Cup, it has always played an important role in being an inclusive competition for all countries to illustrate the world’s unity through the beautiful game. With such a stage, it is also a good chance to protest against inequality and injustice. For example, in 2014, there were protests focused on the government’s spending, prioritising to host the World Cup rather than on their social infrastructure. Most recently, many teams such as England were silenced from making a stand for gay rights with the OneLove armband, and Belgium was banned from using the word ‘love’ in their kit by FIFA. This silence of expression was seen as journalist Jon Pagh was asked to remove his OneLove armband by Qatar police during a TV broadcast.
With such upsetting news about the most well recognised sporting event, many supporters are let down by the failure to respect worker’s rights and freedom of expression. However, there seems to be a united understanding that the practices seen in Qatar are too morally repugnant to repeat again, which is arguably all that could have been expected by any team protest in the first place. Hopefully, moving on from this we see greater respect for human dignity and better business practices.
* Aryn Baker. “The Dangerous Game”. TIME magazine, volume number: 200, date of publication: November 21-28 2022, pages 54-59.