Qatar and the 2022 FIFA World Cup
Sep 27, 2013 (Menafn - Arab News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --The allegations of appalling treatment of Nepalese workers engaged in the construction of facilities for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup have produced an angry response from the Qatari government, which has said that there is no excuse for workers to be treated as slaves. It is moving rapidly to mount its own investigation.
Now it would be wrong to pre-judge the results of enquiries that are being mounted by the Qataris and FIFA itself, following the serious accusations made by the UK's Guardian newspaper. These assert that in just three months to Aug. 8, 44 mainly Nepalese workers have died because of workplace accidents or exposure to excessive heat. The workers also claim not to have been paid for months with their passports and work documents held by their employers. It has even been said that access has been denied to free drinking water on building sites.
It is absolutely clear that even if there is so much as a grain of truth in what is being alleged, some serious action is necessary, because the 2022 FIFA World Cup is not just a pivotal moment for Qatar, but for the whole Arab World and particularly the countries of the Gulf.
However, it might be as well to look at the British newspaper's scandalous assertions in a wider context. It was clear from the moment that FIFA chose to award the World Cup in nine years time to an Arab country, that there were forces at work, seeking to push back against the decision. The campaign was low-key at first. It began with the common argument mounted against virtually every country awarded a prestigious sported event -- can the necessary stadia and facilities be built in time? The speed with which Qatar addressed to mammoth preparations for the contest, quickly put paid to that objection.
Then the carping began about staging the World Cup at the height of the Gulf summer. It did not matter to those who raised the issue, that the games would be played in air-conditioned stadia and that the Qataris were promising that fans and players alike would hardly ever be exposed to the outside temperatures, as they traveled to and from the games. Thus a move has been initiated to reschedule the tournament to the winter. Currently backed by the 50 members of UEFA, the idea needs further endorsement from individual leagues. The British Premier League is known to be bitterly unhappy at the idea of losing all of January for games. There are said to be considerable legal, as well as practical considerations to rescheduling matches in and around an already packed season, which will anyway inevitably have to be extended.
Then, at the street level, especially in European countries, there has been steady murmur of protest that visiting fans will be unable to drink alcohol while they are in Qatar. There have been demands that the Qataris allow alcoholic consumption. However, given the appalling behavior of drunken thugs at past World Cup games and other international football tournaments, there will be those who will be relishing the prospect of an alcohol-free World Cup, where the focus can be entirely on what happens on the pitch and not diverted by the criminal activities of inebriated louts.
The sub-text of course to virtually all of this steady flow of objections to Qatar's hosting of the 2002 international football spectacular, is that the Arab world does not really feature in world football, has no real claim to stage the World Cup and has only won it because it was prepared to throw billions of dollars into mounting the event and, whispered darkly, may also have thrown some money at those whose job it was to decide the 2022 venue.
Put bluntly, there is a repugnant undertow of racism to much of the comment made against Qatar's selection. This should be a cause of quiet anger on the part of everyone in the Arab world. However, rather than protesting the prejudice, the best response is surely for Qatar to stage the best and most successful World Cup ever.
It therefore stands to reason, that if there is any truth in the shameful allegations that have been made about the treatment of foreign workers on World Cup construction projects, they should not only be corrected immediately, but anyone within the employer organizations who is found to be responsible for what would effectively be criminal behavior, is punished openly and appropriate fines be imposed on the businesses concerned.
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