Thursday, February 20, 2014

2022 World Cup meaningless amidst further deaths

Milo and Otis redefined the whole feline/canine relationship movie. At least to a child, it did. It featured a beautiful ginger kitten and his buddy, a Pug, heading off on an incredible journey. It was one of the most successful kid’s movies of 1986 and had even the most grizzled, Star-Wars-obsessed seven-year-olds transfixed by its simple beauty.

Until we found out that that adorable ginger kitten was probably at least 20 adorable ginger kittens that just happened to look the same. Numerous reports have the animal cruelty budget on the project far exceeding the monies devoted to Dudley Moore’s voiceovers; those of us who experienced wholesome joy on first viewing now cleanse ourselves occasionally with scouring pads at once innocent memories.

Two recent news reports over the past week have thrown yet further doubt over the qualifications of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup. The first, filed last week, has FIFA “seriously considering” moving football’s flagship event from the successful bidder due to concerns about possible human rights violations inflicted upon Nepalese workers involved in the construction of the tournament’s stadia.

This was followed on Tuesday by The Guardian reporting that over 500 Indian workers had died in Qatar since 2012. While totals are of course vague, this suggests that nearly 1000 underprivileged migrant workers have been effectively sacrificed in the past two years to construct state-of-the-art arenas for a country that boasts the world’s highest per-capita income.

The Indian consulate have confirmed that 717 Indian nationals have died in Qatar since the World Cup was awarded to the Gulf nation in December 2010, with some estimates of the death toll before 2022 stretching north of 4000. In the article by the Guardian, the Qatari Labor and Social affairs ministry were quoted as “clarifying” the numbers.

Precisely what that clarification involves is still to be determined.

Even yesterday, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter has suggested that Qatar’s host status is not under threat.

It’s time for football fans to say that the 2022 World Cup has no place in football. While it’s logical to assume that not all of these fatalities relate to World Cup construction, part of the tournament’s mission is to advance FIFA’s mission, which is to “develop the game, touch the world, build a better future”*.
FIFA’s better future obviously doesn’t extend to the families of the deceased workers.

On FIFA’s website, Joseph S. Blatter personally signs off on a phrase that should doom the Qatar World Cup, but seemingly hasn’t: “We see it as our duty to take on the social responsibility that comes hand in hand with our position at the helm of the world’s most loved sport”. That a member state works employees in such conditions as the Guardian and other sources describe so as to run a sanctioned tournament is comment enough on how seriously FIFA take their own mission statement.

Football fans must announce loudly to FIFA that they care more about the thousand-plus unfortunate workers – and the many more that continue to work under harsh Qatari conditions – than they do about watching an event tarnished by blood of this magnitude. In selling the event to Qatar, FIFA have embraced a nation whose ethic on immigrant rights is not only outdated, it does not reflect that of much of the world and deserves only the loudest and most strident condemnation.

Given FIFA’s (and Qatar’s) governance, the only way to effect change is to ignore the Cup. This might be a hardship, but a necessary one that protests the blind eye that the game’s governing body has turned to the plight of immigrant workers in FIFA’s tiniest powerhouse nation. As a football populace, we can’t ignore those deaths either and the responsibility rests with us to become agents of change – and the only way we can catalyse this is making ourselves heard, and by refusing to invest financially or ethically in a broken and self-centered institution.

It asks much of football fans to boycott a World Cup, but there are more important matters at stake than pride in a national sporting ability.

*(FIFA also suggests on its homepage that it stands for “authenticity, unity, performance and integrity. Make of this what you will).

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