Friday, April 02, 2021

Supporting the workers in Qatar

 The world is quietly waking up to the scandalous human rights abuses in Qatar, which have been amply documented by Amnesty International. As the World Cup qualifiers have started, a team like Norway is debating whether to boycott the tournament, while other teams have been staging protests before their matches, most notably Germany and Netherlands. German players, such as Toni Kroos, have been particularly outspoken on behalf of the largely migrant workers who build the stadiums under conditions that should not exist in the 21st century, and even less under the auspices of the rest of the world and FIFA.

Other teams, such as England have been completely quiet, while Denmark or Austria made discreet protests, almost as if they were afraid to offend anyone, but still express support for the workers.

The discussion will fortunately rage on over the next months. But what about the most important thing? The workers? The people toiling under oppressive conditions so that we can be entertained?

It is not clear whether anything for real is being done to improve their lot, and I am afraid that as the qualifiers and the matches progress, their oppression will move to the background. While boycotting the tournament may not help anyone (not even the workers) a more explicit and committed distancing from fans, players and national associations may be more necessary than ever so that we do not get a World Cup stained by the blood and sweat of the most forgotten but most important people in the World Cup.

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