Sport takes sides against the World Cup of slavery

Sport takes sides against the World Cup of slavery


By Souad Sbai

Fighting against the accomplice indifference of politics and institutions, the sport challenges the arrogance of the emirs of Qatar. Riku Riski, a Finnish footballer, has announced that he will not participate in the meeting to be held in Doha between his national team and Sweden to protest against human rights violations committed against foreign workers. In recent years, there have been too much victims and hundreds of injured workers, mainly from Asian countries, on the construction of the stadiums and infrastructures that will host the Qatar World Cup in 2022.

To the precarious security conditions it is necessary to add the serious restrictions to personal freedom and the nonpayment of the wages. To meet the demands of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the United Nations agency that deals with labor protection, the Doha regime announced the introduction of a law aimed at ending the so-called “kafala”, the system that does not allow foreign workers to leave Qatar without the consent of their “employer”. However, the law has not yet entered into force, reports Amnesty International, and it is not known when it will be applied. Amnesty International continues to denounce the behavior of the construction companies linked to the regime that, despite the calls received and the promises made, have no intention of paying the labor force, causing serious consequences on the lives of workers and their families.

These are well-known facts that until now have not affected the relations between the Western governments and Qatar and have not led to the revocation of the assignment to Qatar of the title of host country for the next World Cup. Al Thani clan thought they could get away with it, counting on the silence of the ruling classes, more interested in business aspects than in the aspects related to human rights.

Riku Riski’s refusal has been received like a lightning bolt in the middle of a blue sky. The refusal is a gesture of extraordinary importance due to it repositions ethics and values ​​placing them at the center of the playing field, as inherent elements of a sporting event. Furthermore, his decision could set a precedent that would certainly be received with great concern by the Doha court. The risk of a domino effect of waste is real and could be so great as to determine, from now until 2022, the organizational failure of the World Cup in Qatar.

Not by chance, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, sensing the possible increase in scandals, seems to have recently started a demarcation operation. On the occasion of the Globe Soccer Prize held in Abu Dhabi, Infantino announced the possibility of anticipating in 2022 the expansion of the number of teams participating in the World Cup in 2026, from 32 to 48, specifying that in this case “celebrate the World Cup only in Qatar seems difficult and therefore other countries would have to offer the necessary infrastructure to host a larger number of teams.” A diplomatic and elegant way to start the process of gradual reduction of Qatar’s role as a host country. For FIFA, it is increasingly embarrassing to link its brand to the Doha regime and not only because of the issue of the slavery of foreign workers; Qatar is the main supporter of the extremist transnational network of the Muslim Brotherhood that produced Al Qaeda, ISIS and the jihadist phenomenon as a whole.

For the emirs of the Al Thani clan, it would be very easy to get out of this deadlock: it would be enough to normalize the situation of foreign labor and stop financing terrorism. Where the pressures of international politics have not been successful so far, sport could succeed.



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