Ugly Truth Stains Beautiful Game

Severe work conditions for vulnerable migrants left thousands dead. 

In 2010, FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar, a country smaller than Connecticut that had never qualified for the tournament. It was awarded the bid over countries like the United States and Japan, economic powerhouses that rarely miss qualification. Since then, eight stadiums have been built there, $220 billion have been invested, 1.3 million jobs have been created for foreign workers, and 6,500 are dead.  

Although the Middle Eastern country is among the richest in the world per capita, it lacked the infrastructure to host such a large sporting event when it won the bid. They didn’t have the proper stadiums, hotels,and highways necessary to do so. Lusail, the city where the final is set to be played, didn’t even exist in 2010. 

Marcos Odegard
Marcos Odegard

To combat its infrastructure problem, Qatar filled its need for cheap labor on the backs of desperate migrant workers. Qatar is made up of 3 million people, but only 15 percent are citizens. The rest are migrant workers and their families from India, Pakistan, Nepal, and other South Asian countries. For the past 12 years, those workers have been subjected to severe labor conditions for the purpose of building stadiums, hotels, and even cities in 100-degree heat, preparing Qatar for the World Cup this November. When their strenuous work is done for the day, they return home to poor living conditions.   

In 2021, the Qatari government mandated a superficial minimum wage for migrant workers following widespread backlash from media and fans. The new wage requirement provides workers $275 a month, which comes out to a miniscule $2 an hour for 8-hour-per-day workers. 

The Qatari government is committing human rights abuses to better its public image. Taking advantage of one of the world’s largest stages, the country is trying to improve its reputation, even at the sacrifice of profits. World Cup hosts normally see financial gains in the billions from the event, but the World Cup in Qatar is projecting a net loss of $200 billion––as well as countless human lives. 

According to The Guardian, more than 6,500 migrant workers from South Asian countries alone have died from harsh working conditions since Qatar won its World Cup bid. During a global conference in Los Angeles, FIFA president Gianni Infantino responded to questions about the alarming number of deaths in Qatar: “FIFA is not the police of the world or responsible for everything that happens around the world.” 

Infantino’s comments are true to FIFA’s position: stand by and watch. Why accept the deaths of thousands of workers? Because it makes money. Since Qatar won the bid, some have alleged corruption. FIFA has faced several corruption scandals over the years, and many of the board members that made the Qatar decision have resigned following the allegations. 

Some fans have suggested a possible boycott of this year’s World Cup, but the beautiful game is difficult to turn away from. If you decide to switch on the TV to watch Qatar kick off the tournament against Ecuador on Nov. 20, just remember those 6,500.

This story was published by the Star Tribune on Nov. 17, 2022.

ThreeSixty Fall News Team students wrote op-ed stories, inspired by the #360YouthVoiceChallenge, which is inspired by youth.