FIFA can’t stop kicking people around
Since Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup a few years ago, 1,200 workers from India and Nepal have died working on construction projects for the event. Qatar is known for its appalling treatment of migrant workers — who make up 90 percent of the workforce — and as its construction business continues to expand with the momentum of the country’s economic growth, the issue is only worsening. A report by the International Trade Union Confederation estimates that more than 4,000 additional workers will die by the time the 2022 World Cup begins.
These are immigrants from surrounding poor and developing nations who are desperately in need of work, and Gulf countries such as Qatar are known for taking advantage of the opportunity for cheap labor. The exploitation of these migrant workers is absolutely appalling. Low wages, dangerous working conditions, a lack of healthcare and laws that restrict workers from protesting or striking chains them to what can only be called modern-day slavery. Their passports and wages are often held by employers as a form of punishment to prevent workers from leaving the country. All this happens while the government continues to turn a blind eye.
This is not the first time that people have lost their lives in the name of sport.
The upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil also comes at the expense of human lives and human rights. There have already been seven deaths directly related to construction for the event, and hundreds of families were forcibly evicted from their homes to make room for the last-minute completion of stadium infrastructure — in some cases, entire slums have been demolished to make room for parking lots and other event buildings. Those displaced have not been adequately compensated for their losses.
A disturbing pattern is being created here, one that continues to glorify a sporting event while glossing over the sharply increasing number of lives it destroys in the process. For most cultures, soccer is so much more than just a sport. It’s a source of pride, honor, respect and passion that binds communities together across the world. But there are times that this passion turns violent, and no matter how seriously the sport is taken, we cannot continue to ignore that part of it. The profitable world of professional soccer is now becoming responsible for causing people distress in a culture that has previously used the sport as a means of coming together.
As an internationally recognized and respected organization, FIFA is responsible for ensuring that it makes itself clear about where it stands on human rights. Until FIFA holds itself accountable for these human rights violations, it will set a dangerous precedent for future host countries that will only continue to disregard the importance of respecting human life and dignity. The culture surrounding soccer is beautiful, but this ugliness now ruins so much of what it means to people.
FIFA has the power to pressure host countries into abiding by at least the basic international standards of human rights, but it appear to be failing colossally. The death rate in Qatar is clearly unacceptable, and yet the country faces no apparent repercussions. FIFA must be responsible for ensuring that laborer’s rights and working conditions are part of the agreement when host countries are chosen, and punitive measures should be taken for countries like Qatar that ignore it. This is the first step that can be taken to work on an international issue that has been ignored for too long already. The message FIFA is sending by remaining silent on the issue is that it is willing to look the other way, as long as the World Cup itself is a success.