What has changed after the World Cup of Shame?

11/20/2023 at 15:13


On the anniversary of the start of the tournament, Amnesty International denounces the abuses that continue to occur against migrant workers, while FIFA continues to forge alliances with dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia

This Monday is fulfilled exactly one year of that match between the Qatar and Ecuador teams that started the Qatar Soccer World Cup 2022. Yes, that meeting without history, that world of shameresolved by the South Americans at half an hour and marked by the shock of local fans at half-time, disenchanted with the performance of their team and, surely, also with football in general, a hobby that at no time has managed to penetrate among the country’s elites.

But it wasn’t football that mattered in Qatar during the World Cup. soccer, as paradoxical as it may sound. That Argentina lifted, a month later, its third World Cup, on the back of a Leo Messi stellar, it was a secondary circumstance for a country that for four weeks became a ‘Truman Show’ for Westerners. It was about sell modernity, to present Qatar as an advanced and normalized country in the international sphere, using football as a ‘sportswashing’ tool. But they weren’t fooling anyone.

The role of FIFA

The dictatorship counted on FIFA Gianni Infantino as a strong ally to defend his speech. The Swiss leader was not presiding over the organization when the controversial (and allegedly corrupt) allocation of the World Cup to Qatar occurred, but took the infamy as his own and defended it tooth and nail, to the point of encouraging European countries to imitate the emirate’s immigration policy.

Today I feel Qatari, Arab, African, gay, disabled, migrant worker“, Infantino said a year and a day ago today, at the beginning of a speech with statements like this: “In Europe we closed our borders and we almost did not allow the arrival of these workers. And those who arrive have to experience a very complicated route that only a few survive. If Europe really cared about the fate of these young people, it could do what Qatar does“: create legal routes so that at least a percentage of these workers reach Europe, so that they have a job, even with a low salary, and a future.”

The reality, however, differed greatly from those words and continues to do so today, a year after that grandiose staging at the Al Bayt stadium in Jor, with Morgan Freeman as a timely whitening tool (one more) of the regime. The world, in general terms, has turned the page on Qatar, it no longer matters without a ball rolling, but certain organizations have not done so.

The situation of migrants

International Amnesty has just published an exhaustive report focused on the progress (or lack thereof) that has occurred in recent months in Qatar in relation to the conditions of migrant workersin a country in which 80% of its inhabitants come from other countries, mainly from poor countries in Asia and Africa.

“The need to protect Qatari workers from exploitation and abuse remains just as urgent now as it was when the championship began. The few areas that have seen progress in the last 11 months, such as the extension of the work ban to certain hours in summer (due to stifling temperatures), are overshadowed by the lack of progress in reinforcing labor reforms implemented before the World Cup, as well as as punishments for breaking labor laws“says the Amnesty International report in its forceful conclusions.

Reading the full report leads to a clear conclusion: international pressure and criticism of holding the tournament in a dictatorial regime forced certain improvements in working conditions of migrant workers, but the World Cup practically established an end point in this openness and implementation of human rights in Qatari legislation.

Amnesty International focuses on various aspects, such as the lack of freedom of workers to change companies. They need explicit permission from the Government, but it barely approves half of the applications it receives, according to data provided by the Qatari administration itself to the NGO. In many cases, the denial is received via SMS, without any explanation“which prevents workers from knowing what the problem is in order to resolve it for the next request.”

Pay to work

Also continuing intact, according to the report, is the practice of having to pay a non-refundable fee to get a first job in Qatar. The report details that, according to official data, 90% of the people who worked at the World Cup paid that money (in most cases, between 1,000 and 3,000 US dollarssometimes reaching almost 5,000), a significant rebound, since the percentage had fallen from 97% to 68% between 2021 and 2017. Amounts that, of course, are enormous for people fleeing poverty in their countries of origin.

In terms of labor justice, Qatar has not improved either, quite the contrary with the progress of the current year. Between January and September, the Qatari Ministry of Labor, according to its own data, received 20,202 complaints. Between January and March, an average of 1,170 cases per month were studied, but the number fell to 72 a month between April and September.

The report goes into detail about other labor matters, but only sticks to them. That is, it does not address other aspects such as discrimination against LGTBI people (homosexuality continues to appear in its Penal Code) or the limitation of the Women rights. For not entering into issues of climate or responsible management of natural resources.

Deviation of responsibility

Amnesty International, in any case, urges FIFA, which it accuses of “deny and deflect responsibility for human rights abuses” in Qatar, to “request clear and binding commitments to human rights for all countries that want to host the World Cup or any of the tournaments it organizes.”

A request that, needless to say, has fallen on deaf ears before it was even formulated. Just a few weeks ago, FIFA consummated the success of the careful strategy it devised so that the 2034 World Cup was assigned to Saudi Arabia. A country that is even more backward in respect for human rights than Qatar and that has practically managed to organize a World Cup by hand with almost no one holding their hands.

Seeing the precedent of Qatar, it is easy to guess what is coming in the next decade: a timid openness in the face of oppression in the least conflictive matters so that Western criticism is minimized and a commitment to continue that path once the World Cup is over, which, surely, will never come. In Qatar it has not done so. The question is pertinent and the answer quite obvious: Did the World Cup of shame serve any purpose?

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