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  • Apollon Bairaktaridis

Thousands of Dead Workers in Qatar – Is FIFA Responsible for Another Disaster?

Perhaps no other international sporting organization has been the target of more criticism than FIFA. With it's selection of Qatar as host for the upcoming 2022 World Cup and independent reporting detailing horrible worker conditions and worker deaths, this criticism is now causing countries to rethink their participation in the most-watched sporting event in the world.

The official logo of the World Cup in 2022 (Photo: FIFA)

In 2010 FIFA announced that the host of the FIFA World Cup 2022 will be Qatar. This decision has brought FIFA much criticism. Thousands of football fans all over the world accused the federation of being a corrupt institution that makes decisions according to the best economic benefit they can get for themselves. The location of the former World Cups in Brazil in 2014 and Russia in 2018 also caused similar statements in the past. Officially any country that can handle the financial costs of a World Cup has the right to nominate themselves for the position of the host. But since the last competitions other factors have also become important. Many protests happened in 2014 in Brazil, because a lot of people stood against the spending of money for the World Cup, saying that an investment for development of the country would be a wiser decision to take. The World Cup in Russia caused also negative consequences as well as many of the stadiums went unused after the competition. The local clubs were not able to fill the big stadiums and the maintenance costs also provoked a problem. The unveiling of Qatar as the next host also led to many negative reactions because Qatar had underdeveloped structures for professional football. 2022 will also be the first time that Qatar will organize a World Cup. The very warm weather makes it also necessary to play the World Cup during the winter season, when the temperatures will fall.

Qatar announced the building of seven modern stadiums, a new airport and a whole subway infrastructure for the upcoming World Cup. Because of the small population of the state, 2.3 million guest workers work in the building sites. The most workers originate from Asian countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan. Their working conditions are considered at the very least to be dangerous and lacking any safety standards. According to The Guardian, 6500 workers have died since 2010. This contrasts to the official statement of Qatar, who said that only 34 workers have died while working in the building sites of the stadiums. It is obvious that the workers were not only working during the winter season, when they could avoid the high temperatures. The FIFA emphasized also the official given small number of dead workers, ignoring that number from international journalists.

A reaction to this news of worker deaths followed from Europe. Norwegian clubs like Rosenborg BK demanded from the NFF (The Football Association of Norway) to boycott the participation of the national team in the tournament. The NFF has rejected that demand, citing that Norway is too small to make a difference, but the debate is still running and it is very possible that it will get more attention until the World Cup begins.

What is the conclusion of all of this; is it really FIFA’s fault and should more clubs boycott the upcoming World Cup? Football is the most popular sport worldwide and it should unite the people, which is a key idea of the World Cup. But instead, many problems are associated with this most important tournament. Someone can argue that through the World Cup the infrastructures of host countries are improving as well as their international image. But although FIFA is bringing people together to celebrate the event, it can be indeed considered as irresponsible. We might not know how many workers exactly died for preparing a competition that will last one month. But we know that FIFA welcomed Qatar as a host. A country having human rights issues, where no labor union exists is most likely not striving for appropriate reforms. The exploit of the workers was expected, and FIFA was aware of that situation. Will ethical aspects stop the World Cup, or can a World Cup with so much criticism be enjoyable? The future is going to answer these questions and more, as the World Cup begins next year.

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