Qatar’s Killer Builders

A very interesting juxtaposition slid across my attention today regarding sports-events in a Middle-Eastern nation I only know from its airport. One article suggested a beach volley-ball protest because the Islamic nation would not allow women contestants to wear bikini’s. The second claimed 6,500 foreign-worker deaths in the construction run-up to the 2022 football World Cup.

Speculation is that the death-count is wildly undercounted and is merely one of the human rights complaints. According to an investigation by The Guardian newspaper, many workers have been denied food and water, had their identity papers taken away from them and had not been paid on time (or at all), making some of them in effect slaves.

Score so far: Bikinis 1, worker-deaths 0

The FIFA World Cup football tournament will be held in Qatar on the twenty-eight days between 21 November and 18 December, 2022.

Just for the hell of it, let’s put some numbers to those dates.

    • Each day essentially celebrates 232 worker deaths, including
    • 2,711 from India
    • 1,641 Nepalese
    • 1,018 Bangladeshi
    • 824 Pakistanis and
    • 557 Sri Lankans

It seems FIFA itself is a criminal organization

As are, to one degree or another, the sports teams in your city. Let me ask you, who paid for the stadium in which your baseball, soccer, hockey, NFL and basketball teams play?

The taxpayers. You and me. Yet who owns them?

The teams own them, often renting out the stadium name to one or another cell phone deliverer or insurance company. Our part of the bargain is to pay a hundred bucks to get in and watch an event in a facility we paid for and gave to someone else.

But we were talking about FIFA

Indeed we were. Sorry about that.

A BBC Panorama exposé by Jennings and BBC producer Roger Corke, screened on 11 June 2006, reported that Sepp Blatter (FIFA president) was being investigated by Swiss police over his role in a secret deal to repay more than £1m worth of bribes pocketed by football officials. Lord Triesman, the former chairman of the English Football Association, described FIFA as an organization that “behaves like a mafia family”, highlighting the organization’s “decades-long traditions of bribes, bungs and corruption.

Fourteen FIFA officials and marketing executives were indicted by the United States Department of Justice in May 2015. The officials were arrested in Switzerland and are in the process of extradition to the US. Specific charges (brought under the RICO act) include wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering.

And so what? says the sports world

For twenty-eight days in the early winter of 2022, unless Covid-19 says otherwise, the world will focus its attention on a criminal organization, presenting a venue built upon modern slavery and profiting immensely from the deaths of thousands of imported slave workers.

It’s difficult to get all that heartbreak, criminal profiteering and self aggrandizement into a single sentence.

But there it is—families destroyed and made destitute, fathers, brothers and uncles never coming home—all for the madness of accepting those consequences to cheer our team home and raise a beer to the winner.

History loves a winner

No one ever speaks to the human cost of winning, whether it be a war, an election or a victory of democracy over fascism.

And of course no one has yet (or will ever) hold Doha’s feet to the fire for the gathering storm of criminality and pain that hovers over the FIFA World Games 2022.

I’ll raise a glass to you, old sport, and all you stand for.


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