In 2010 Qatar was chosen as the host for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Since then, controversy has been an unrelenting constant for both FIFA and Qatar. The most recent being Qatar’s decision to ban the sale of alcohol at the World Cup stadiums, just days before Sunday’s kickoff.
Unsurprisingly, the news took over social media and criticism was heard from all directions. It’s an unusual decision and one that soccer fans probably never imagined, so to an extent I understand. Yet, how have we allowed this decision to overshadow a much greater loss?
In 2021, The Guardian published a report that revealed that since the beginning of construction for the Qatar World Cup, over 6,500 migrant workers have died.
It was also found that the families of these workers, many of whom were the primary breadwinners, did not receive any compensation.
As recent as Saturday night, there were reports that security guards working at the World Cup events are being paid as little as 40 cent and are given only one day off a month, according to The Guardian.
Effectively the World Cup is operating under a system of modern slavery and the outrage around it is nowhere near sufficient.
Some might say the emphasis on the beer-ban in the media is the way of the news cycle. But this isn’t some political rivalry or celebrity scandal. Modern slavery isn’t just a new story for clicks. These people are suffering, and we don’t seem to have the attention span to do anything real about it.
It’s not only the media, or Qatar for that matter, who should be questioned on this. FIFA have, perhaps, the biggest responsibility of all. They have the power to choose who host. The fact Qatar was chosen in the first place has drawn great speculation, but what has stopped them from reversing their decision?
A few months ago, Russia was stripped of the Champions League final and Formula One dropped the Sochi Grand Prix. There’s no reason that outweighs the loss of 6,500 lives which would prevent FIFA from taking the World Cup from Qatar.
But let me be devil’s advocate for a minute, the World Cup is a massive event. I’m not naïve to the logistics and planning involved. So, you could argue that it wouldn’t have been realistic for FIFA to find a new host on such short notice.
Even if FIFA can’t strip Qatar of the World Cup, how were working conditions so poor that so many people suffered? If the host country can’t guarantee the safety of the workers who are building stadiums, then FIFA need to take on that responsibility.
We can’t allow ourselves, FIFA, Qatar, or the media to forget about this neglect for human life. A ban on alcohol, no matter how shocking, doesn’t deserve more airtime than the deaths of thousands. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that, so why is nothing being done?