Games people play, You take it or leave it
Things that they say, Just don’t make it right
If I’m tellin’ you the truth right now, do you believe it
From the album Turn of A Friendly Card by The Alan Parsons Project
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In my previous contribution to GRP, I wrote about the World Cup’s underlying bribery story line. In this installment I will discuss another aspect of subtle stink that emanates from FIFA’s World Cup. 2022 is still eight years away but there are alarming events coming from Qatar that seem to be under reported. A storyline that affects the Philippines far more than illegal betting ever can.
Qatar winning the bid to host the World Cup never made much sense on the surface. A small country with no rich soccer (football) tradition. Temperatures that reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit during the time of year that the World Cup is traditionally played. Rumor has it Lebron is not invited to play. Qatar is the size of Connecticut, USA inhabited by fewer than 300,000 actual citizens. The vast majority of the total two million population is composed of foreign migrant workers. It is the smallest country selected to host the World Cup. In retrospect when the United States hosted the World Cup in 1990, the games were scattered over nine cities including both coasts and the Midwest.
Qatar promised that for the World Cup they will have new stadiums, hotels and transit for a total cost of $200,000,000,000. With all their oil, money is not apparently the problem. Labor has to be imported in. From the usual countries where the population exceeds opportunities. India, Pakistan, Nepal and the Philippines. You take a country whose citizens enjoy the highest per capita income in the world and put them in charge of a labor force mostly compromised of the disadvantaged from poorer countries and you do not exactly have a recipe for social harmony. “Less than human” is how International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Sharon Burrow describes how the Qatar citizens perceive the imported labor force. The organization is designed to defend worker’s rights around the world.
Burrows said in ESPN’s The Sporting Life (May 30) that these workers were promised a lot of money if they worked to build the facilities needed for the 2022 World Cup. Burrows tells Schaap that whatever was promised during the recruitment is rarely realized once the worker sets foot on Qatar. She describes Qatar as a “slave state in the 21st century”. The contract is often ripped to shreds right in front of them. “They pay you what they choose to” is what she told Schaap. Not unlike Candidate Noynoy Aquino in 2010 promising the Freedom of Information Bill then in 2014 there is no sign of his former enthusiasm as well as no sign of the Bill.
There are currently 1.4 million foreign workers there. 94% of the labor force. These laborers get to Qatar by taking out loans from recruitment agencies ( a story pinoys are familiar with). At their destination however they are subject to “kafala” where their freedom of movement is totally controlled by their employer. This can lead to abuse in terms of working hours, working conditions, living conditions and communication with the outside world. Domestic workers are not covered by Qatar’s labour laws and cannot challenge their contracts in court. The worker is often bound to their employer by kafala for several years.
The Sporting Life’s Jeremy Schaap claims that by simply talking to workers in the labor camps where they are confined to was to risk arrest from the local authorities. “The over powering smell of human waste ” was how he described the sanitary conditions of one camp. Burrows described living quarters where 8 to 12 people cram into a room and they share cooking facilities that are absolutely unhygienic. The camp Shaap visited suffered three deaths in the last few months all from heart attacks. Schaap spoke to a window of a worker from Nepal who died of a heart attack after two months of working construction in Qatar. The widow claimed her husband was very healthy. Schaap interviewed a government official from Nepal and over 600 Nepalese workers have died in Qatar in the last five years. Almost a third of that in the previous 12 months. Most of the deaths officially attributed to cardiac arrest. Schaap further describes that companies offer little support and compensation once a worker dies.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter denied Schaap’s request for an interview. ” How many people are going to die for this World Cup to take place? ” was a question he had to direct to Ms. Burrows. She based her answer only on figures available from India and Nepal. Her answer was consistent with what she told Sarah Rawlings of Deepcor. Deepcor’s mission is to dispatch intelligence, news and culture to a diverse audience while sparking discussion and promoting action. This initiative will engage global issues on a human level and inspire much needed social change.
As Qatar gears up for the 2022 World Cup, the death toll for the 1.2 million migrant workers is disconcertingly high with 900 deaths as of March 13th, 2014.
In the first five months of construction, 82 Indian workers died and 1,460 complained to the embassy about the conditions of labour. 50 °C (122 °F) days and denial of free drinking water, combined with retaining payment and passports, have created an untenably difficult situation for these workers.
44 Nepalese workers died from 4 June to 8 August 2013 and in many cases, the causes of death are not investigated. About half are from heart failure or workplace accidents.
To put this death toll into perspective:
- 25 construction workers died for the Sochi Olympics facilities
- 6 workers have died during the 2014 Brazil World Cup construction (so far)
- 12 deaths were reported during all Olympic constructions from 1987-1992
The Guardian did two features on the working conditions in Qatar. One focusing on the construction workers and the other on the plight of the domestic workers. Perhaps lending credence to the infamous Hong Kong text book, Filipinas were the only ethnic group mentioned. How they are treated will just revolt anyone. It is very doubtful the conditions will improve when more domestic workers will be needed in the future in anticipation of the increase in tourists and the inevitable World Cup.
I really do not understand a people that is so proud of a country that can not produce opportunities for it’s own people that they become easy prey for the Qatars of the world. Azkals, want to make a mark that will be heard around the globe? The good news is this will have nothing to do with your play and everything to do with not playing. Use the platform you have in this country and bring our nation’s attention to this. Talk about your concern for living conditions of your fellow humans and how irresponsible it would be to send another person to what looks like hell on Earth. Then boycott all FIFA sponsored events until this is addressed. You will be making a world a better place by informing the uninformed. You will make people care. You will make your mark in the world with this statement. You will be truly world class by being about the world.
- http://sports.espn.go.com/espnradio/podcast/archive?id=8026447 (May 30 2014 )
Putting a very sharp needle into the balloon known as Pinoy Pride since 2012.