Mark Keohane, writing for “Keo’s Corner” on IOL Sport
The corona pandemic has turned the world upside down but it doesn’t seem to have altered the way of life economically and financially when it comes to football and footballers.
Something is very wrong with our world when 6500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lank have died in Qatar in the 10 years since the country was confirmed as the 2022 Fifa Soccer World Cup hosts.
I am an avid reader of news, arts, sports and whatever else my time allows for. Among the stories that immediately grabbed my attention this week was The Guardian’s investigation into labour rights and the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar.
The investigation quoted Nick McGeehan, a director at FairSquare Projects, whose company specializes in labour rights in the Gulf.
McGeehan made the claim that the most significant proportion of migrant workers who had died since 2011 were only in the country because of the 2022 World Cup.
In this time, seven new stadiums, an airport, roads, public transport systems, a metro, hotels and a new city have been built. The estimated cost is 138 billion pounds.
FIFA, according to its projections, stands to gain in excess of three billion pounds from the 2022 World Cup, while labourers, who make up 95 percent of the workforce on all the World Cup sites, are paid 8 pounds and 50 cents an hour.
Country authorities and FIFA have vehemently denied the alleged number of deaths, but have not provided detailed statistics to prove otherwise.
FIFA’s leadership has also recently gone on a charm offensive in an attempt to convince the world that this will not be a World Cup tainted by labour abuse.
It certainly needs more than a charm offensive.
The decision to award Qatar the World Cup is one that has been beset by accusations of corruption, bribery and every underhanded deal imaginable. Post the awarding of the event, several of the most prominent FIFA executives have been charged and convicted when it comes to corruption, bribery and every type of unethical corporate and business practice.
Yet, Qatar’s right to continue to host the most premier global sporting event was not called into question.
This World Cup will be as tarnished as the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Back then the most infamous imagery was that of the Olympic rings being replaced with a pair of handcuffs to emphasise crimes against child labour and the exploitation of migrant workers.
So many stories were documented about the blood that was spilled in preparing Beijing for the Summer Olympics.
But the controversy, post the 2008 Olympics, sadly died as quick a death as so many of those migrant workers did in the build-up to what was supposed to be an event that symbolized the human spirit.
More than a decade on and it is like reading horror stories from 2008 all over again.
When it is ever going to be enough?
Not in my lifetime … not ever.
At least that is the realist in me speaking.
Which doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be written about, spoken about and shared on a daily basis.
The more who know; the more who object and the more who rally … hell who knows … perhaps some good will come from it and human lives won’t so easily be sacrificed in the name of sport, and in this case, specifically soccer.
The amount paid to professional footballers is insane and out of sync with the rest of the planet’s inhabitants, but even this imbalance doesn’t compare with the number of human lives lost to a sporting event that is yet to be played.
It is sickening.