This is the glorious armada of Qatar. Eight football stadiums, with a monumental look, which will parade in a few months on all the screens of the planet. These state-of-the-art arenas, designed bybig names in architecture, will host the matches of the 2022 World Cup (from November 21 to December 18), the first to be held in an Arab country.
The giant 60,000-seat Al-Bayt Stadium, shaped like a Bedouin tent, where the opening match will be played, will be inaugurated on 30 November. The Lusail stadium, where the final, an 80,000-seat behemoth whose design evokes the copper bowl, filled with dates, that is handed to guests – a symbol of Arab hospitality – will open its doors in the coming weeks.
Construction of the other six is complete and the majority of them are already operational. This is also the case for Qatar's new airport, the Doha metro, the new city of Lusail and the Msheireb district, four mega-factories, made imperative by the World Cup. This construction frenzy, spread over ten years, cost the emirate $200 billion (about €177 billion), including $6 billion to $7 billion for stadiums. "From an infrastructure point of view, we will be ready in early 2022," said Hassan Al-Thawadi, director of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy in charge of preparing the event.
Thus, Qatar could be congratulated for having brilliantly respected its specifications in the construction of the infrastructure necessary for the organization of an event of a global scale such as the football World Cup. The problem is that there is a downside to this brilliant record: 6500 workers died on these sites. Intense heat, falls and heart failures, work accidents... The British media The Guardian has highlighted the dark side of one of the biggest planetary events that remains too little known. The British newspaper, at the forefront of football-related investigations, has collected and compiled data collected from the authorities of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. These figures could be much higher, because Kenya or the Philippines, major suppliers of workers in Qatar, have not, like other countries, communicated their figures.
This appalling situation has been denounced for several years by various NGOs, such as Amnesty International, which published a report on 16 November 2021, and once again denounced the "large-scale exploitation" of this workforce and the opacity surrounding the number of deaths on the World Cup sites. For its part, Qatar puts forward the number of 39 deaths, of which only three would be a consequence of the professional activity of the victims. Beyond the ridiculous, this figure is not very informative and you have to dig a little deeper to see the whole picture of a country that systematically uses migrant workers and the exploitation of them. Indeed, stadium workers are about 30,000 according to 2020 figures, which represents no more than 2% of the total migrants in Qatar. It is estimated that there are 2.0 million migrant workers in Qatar, out of a population of 2.8 million, an almost unique situation in the world.
"Multiples abuses and serious and widespread violations of labour rights": "exorbitant and illegal recruitment fee payments not reimbursed", "scams by abusive employers", "excessive working hours", "forced labour", "deaths that have rarely been investigated" and have not resulted in compensation for the families of the victims, these are the common practices towards migrant workers in Qatar.
"By awarding the World Cup to Qatar [on 2 December 2010] without imposing conditions or guarantees to improve labour law protections, and by subsequently failing to adequately prevent or mitigate human rights violations, FIFA contributed to a wide range of avoidable and predictable labour rights abuses ... and has paved the way for further violations," said Amnesty International.
Indeed, the world football bodies and FIFA in the lead have a heavy responsibility in awarding the World Cup to Qatar, a process still unclear and strongly suspected of corruption at all levels.
The NGO recalls that Qatar's "choice" in 2010 was "very controversial due to allegations of corruption, extreme heat and its disastrous human rights record". "The risks to the workers were not even taken into account during the selection process of the host country" and were not included in the FIFA evaluation report, when the "health risks" related to the "extreme heat" were taken into account for the "players, spectators, official representatives and the FIFA family."
While the kafala system, which placed migrant workers under guardianship, remained in force in Qatar "until the end of 2018" and despite the "progress", the NGO accuses FIFA of not having "prevented or mitigated the risks of abuse at work in the years following the award of the World Cup."
A good example of the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar concerns a hundred employees of Qatar Meta Coats, a design and construction company subcontracting the work of the Al Bayt stadium, who have not been paid for nearly seven months. While the Organising Committee had been aware of the case for almost a year, FIFA was only informed after being informed by Amnesty International.
According to the NGO, despite recent labour reforms launched in the emirate, "structural problems persist" and "thousands of workers are still victims of abuse and exploitation".
The host country of the 2022 World Cup may have undertaken some reforms, such as the abolition of the "kafala" system, a system that enslaves workers to their employers and does not allow them to change jobs or migrate elsewhere. If the system has disappeared in the texts of law since 2018, in practice, it remains practiced because it is vital for the economy of Qatar where 90% of workers are migrants.
Qatar and FIFA have enormous responsibilities in this widespread human scandal, yet according to Amnesty International, they have clear obligations and responsibilities under international human rights law and standards, not only to prevent such widespread human rights violations, but also to provide appropriate remedies to the victims of these violations. To date, however, neither FIFA nor Qatar has fulfilled their respective responsibilities and obligations to provide reparations for the violations committed. »
In its 2021 report, the NGO recommends the creation by FIFA of a "compensation fund" for workers or families of injured, injured or dead workers in Qatar. Such compensation, which will surely never happen, let us not be naïve, would be the least we can do, but it will not give back to the families their dead who sent them a significant part of their salary every month to help them survive in their country of origin. Whatever happens, whatever measures are taken, the damage is already done and deeply done, this world football is already "the world of shame".
A global event, a global responsibility...
After this demonstration, there is no doubt that no one doubts the humanitarian and ethical scandal that is the organization of the football World Cup in a country like Qatar that tramples on human rights.
Unfortunately, this tendency to attribute major sporting events to countries that do not respect human rights has continued to gain ground in recent years, which logically comes from the rise of authoritarian regimes on the international scene. We can obviously talk about the organization of the last Winter Olympics by China, or those organized in 2014 in Sochi by Russia which had an already monstrous ecological cost, or the 2018 World Cup, still in Russia (decidedly) which had invaded Crimea 4 years earlier.
In the future, this must lead us to no longer attribute such events to countries that have such actions. This requires much greater transparency in the process of selection and attribution of such events, which must not only take into account the financial capacity to organize these events but also respect for the planet, human rights and also the local population. Indeed, during the previous football World Cups of 2010 in South Africa and 2014 in Brazil, the poor populations had been evacuated manu militari by the police and hidden the time of the World Cup in order to give the World beautiful images of countries that have developed and to please Western tourists who wanted more to see a nice little football theater rather than the reality of economic inequalities in the organising countries.
Indeed, it is too easy to be indignant from our sofas in our air-cooled apartments thinking that as Europeans from liberal and democratic countries we have nothing to do with it and that it is not our responsibility. Nothing could be further from the truth: in a global event, responsibility is global. Indeed, it is our responsibility on several levels, first of all, it is about the fans who will go to Qatar in the winter of 2022 to support their team in stadiums built on the corpses of Nepalese workers. Then it is the great leaders of the planet, those of football first of all, we have known for a long time that FIFA is a corrupt organization, its former president Sepp Blatter who is banned from this organization after having held the presidency for almost 20 years. It is also the current president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino who resides in Qatar with his family in the luxurious districts of Doha most of the year. Finally, it is our national heads of state who approve this event for economic reasons, a good example is the France, which is surely the European country that has the deepest ties with Qatar, economically, politically and even more so in the field of football. First of all, if we go back to the attribution of this World Cup, the process remains very opaque and we do not have all the information, but the newspaper Le Monde, the first French daily evokes a dinner in Paris on July 23, 2010, Nicolas Sarkozy (President of the Republic at the time), the Crown Prince of Qatar and Michel Platini (President of UEFA) had lunch at the Élysée (French presidential palace). Five years later, the emirate was preparing to host the 2022 World Cup. That would lend a lot of power to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, but his ties to the Gulf emirate are obvious. Recall that the oil monarchy is, through its investment fund QSI (Qatar Sports Investment) owner of the football club of the Parisian capital, PSG, but also that Qatar is a valuable customer for the French military industry.
Naturally, these games of influence, corruption and elevator referrals between world leaders of all kinds are not new, and that is the problem, this whole macabre little game continues as if nothing had happened in the most total indifference and in the most certain hypocrisy. In the situation we are in, the future is unfortunately already written. Everyone will quietly wait for the start of the next World Cup next November, which will be inaugurated with great fanfare and in brand new stadiums built at a human cost much more exorbitant than the financial cost.
In all this scandal, there are silences more shocking than others. Whether FIFA is playing ostrich in front of the press or Qatar is lying about the situation of migrant workers in its country, such indecency is no longer surprising. In my opinion, the most embarrassing thing about all this is the silence of the football professionals, and in the first place of the players who will tread the lawns of the stadiums built on the remains of exploited workers.
Indeed, today's football players are icons of modern times and huge international stars, so much so that few people ignore the names of Messi or Ronaldo. There were some actions of several national teams such as Germany, Norway or the Netherlands last year, during the qualifiers, but the majority remained silent and the movement did not go far enough. No player has announced that he will boycott this event for political or ethical reasons, the arrival of the biggest stars on the planet will be a victory for the state of Qatar but a scathing defeat for human rights.
While it is supposed to be a moment of global joy bringing the whole world together in the celebration of an extraordinary event around the most beautiful sport in the world that is football, this 2022 World Cup will be the funeral celebration of human rights, no more and no less.