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Stop this football bigotry. All lives matter.

By Tony Attwood

For some time I’ve laid off the topic of slave labour being used in Qatar to build the world cup stadia, and the argument that anyone who is involved in the World cup there is supporting slavery.

But the issue does not go away as the BBC has revealed that over 6,500 “migrant workers”  (the code phrase in this context for slave labour) from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup.

The Guardian has covered the story; I am not sure too many other “outlets” have.

This means the Qatari building operation has killed an average of 12 migrant workers from these five countries each week since December 2010 when Fifa (in what is now largely considered to be a fixed vote and is the subject of a legal challenge in the USA) awarded Qatar the world cup.  The figures come from the individual countries’ own reports.  Each death leaves a family not just bereft, but without its main earner and no compensation.

To add to the horror, many of these workers have paid what for them is a huge sum of money in “recruitment fees” in order to get the job in the first place – fees paid on the promise of an easy office job with regular hours in an air-conditioned environment.  Upon arrival, passports are removed and there is thus no escape.

Around 80% of the deaths of the Indian workers are simply recorded as being from “natural causes” – something that is very unlikely given that these are fit young men employed to work on building sites.  The natural cause is put down as acute heart or respiratory failure.  There is normally no autopsy, and so no evidence.

Although autopsies are now allowed in law in cases of unexpected or sudden death (the law was amended after a lot of protesting by various human rights groups), they are still normally not carried out.

But that is only part of the story because it does not include either the deaths of workers from the Philippines, nor from Keyna, nor of any nationality from October 2020 onwards.  And they are still building.

Qatar is of course not a democracy so there is no accountability at all, and its self-perpetuating government now merely says (according to the Guardian) “that the number of deaths is proportionate to the size of the migrant workforce and that the figures include white-collar workers who have died naturally after living in Qatar for many years.”

According to the Guardian, “research has also highlighted the lack of transparency, rigour and detail in recording deaths in Qatar. Embassies in Doha and governments in labour-sending countries are reluctant to share the data, possibly for political reasons. Where statistics have been provided, there are inconsistencies between the figures held by different government agencies, and there is no standard format for recording the causes of death. One south-Asian embassy said they could not share data on the causes of death because they were only recorded by hand in a notebook.”

Of course, the ultimate responsibility for the deaths is a) Fifa and b) every footballing nation that voted for the World Cup in such an inappropriate climate and where the workforce is not protected by the normal rules of human rights and human care, and everyone who gets involved in this world cup.

An anonymous spokesperson for Fifa, has said. “With the very stringent health and safety measures on site … the frequency of accidents on Fifa World Cup construction sites has been low when compared to other major construction projects around the world.”

They offered no evidence to support this statement, and if it were true, one might expect some comparable figures.

My personal view, for what it is worth, is that anyone engaged in any way with the forthcoming world cup, is giving out a statement that she or he finds the preparation of the world cup acceptable.  If black lives matter, as obviously they do, so do the lives of the workers engaged in Qatar in building the world cup stadia and the surrounding environment.

The Fifa corruption files

10 comments to Stop this football bigotry. All lives matter.

  • Arsenal-Fan

    All Lives Matter is a slogan associated with criticism of Black Lives Matter. In that context, it can be an issue that’s offensive to some.

    I’d suggest more responsible headlines

  • I would think that people who take Black Lives Matter seriously will also appreciate the importance of highlighting the issue raised here. I am sure anyone who thinks seriously about these things goes beyond mere headlines.

  • gee

    All Lives Matter is a statement before a slogan, who ever hijacked it is not important as what the original statement means is more important.

    Many religious groups make this type of statement as part of their belief.

  • Laos gooner

    All lives matter and to take black as a division of human lives is just serving the racist agenda. The point about the slaves dying is reality and I shall not be watching the Death cup when it is played in some desert owned by billionaires. Those people with issues about the slogan used in the headline should maybe look at whether any 3 word slogans capture the nuances of any political debate.

  • Michael Cook

    I completely agree with your article and rather like the comment from Laos Gooner calling it the “Death Cup”. I’ll use that title from now on as it more accurately describes it.

  • jjgsol

    is it not correct that the Black Lives Matter movement has now moved on to other causes which have nothing to do with slavery, such as anti-capitalism?

    is the offence taken at your headline an indication that there is a belief that only black lives matter, as opposed to what should be the case as your headline suggests?

  • Menace

    The 2022 Death Cup in Qatar. What an apt name for sport in this uncouth murderous country.

  • Menace

    Black Lives Matter is not slavery aligned. It is the abuse and murder of black people in the USA and some other countries by law enforcement agencies.

  • Walter Broeckx

    What a great find from Laos Gooner…. the Death cup…. I will use this name also.
    And thanks again Tony for taking up this issue over the years.

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