Three years ago, I went to Doha to look at what all the fuss was about for myself when it came to workers’ conditions in Qatar.
I had heard all the tales. But nothing prepares you quite for seeing it for yourself. It was worse than I imagined.
I was so shocked, so sickened and, frankly, so ashamed that human beings can do this to one another that I came back to Europe and set about our Hypocrisy World Cup campaign joining forces with the ITUC, Playfair Qatar, the Trades Union Congress in the UK and, of course, #NewFIFANow. The campaign challenged FIFA and its sponsors over FIFA’s decision to hold its prestigious World Cup tournament in a country that had in place a system of kafala.
The Hypocrisy World Cup campaign was launched nine days before the famous FIFA arrests.
A lot has happened since then, and I won’t regurgitate it all.
Suffice to say, after years of many good people lobbying hard with the Qatar Government over it, towards the end of last year when their Prime Minister declared that they had officially done away with the kafala system, and had plans in place to improve workers’ living and working conditions. I wrote about this here.
Of course, we continue to keep a watchful eye, along with Human Rights Watch and others, to make sure that Qatar’s action match their words.
So all of that is by way of introduction to a wonderful feature-length documentary called The Workers Cup produced by another good friend of mine, Rosie Garthwaite, who helped arrange my 2015 visit to Qatar.
It takes you inside the labour camps of the Asian and African workers who are building the facilities and infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup and showcases their very own football tournament known as The Workers Cup.
The film occurs mostly inside the Umm Salal camp in a remote stretch of the desert. Out of sight, and out of mind, as are the 4,000 men – mostly from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Philippines – who live there.
The same committee organising the ‘proper’ World Cup in 2022 also organised The Workers Cup tournament, with 24 construction companies (German, English, US, French, Australian and others) invited to field a team. The film follows the men taking part in The Workers Cup as they alternate between two extremes – heroes on the football field, and the lowest members of Qatar society away from it.
The film is so impactful because we see how a handful of the players are dealing with the everyday challenges of their life in Qatar, and how they deal with “universal themes of ambition, aspiration and masculinity” (to quote from the film’s PR blurb).
If you get a chance to see it, I urge you to do so.
And don’t let any of us ever forget to hold Qatar to their promise of last year to eliminate the inhumane kafala system and improve the conditions and lives of the people who are building their country’s dream.