When Qatar was awarded the first World Cup to ever take place in the Middle East, some eyebrows were raised because, well, it’s going to be 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade when the games take place during the summer months and the country only has one stadium that was deemed worthy enough to use.
Still, the country has until 2022 to work out these problems. Part of its bid promised that it would build nine of the most gorgeous stadia you’ve ever seen. They will be air-conditioned to ensure the good feeling and health of the players and fans alike. Also, some are promised to be modular so that they can be taken apart after the Cup and sent along to developing countries so they can enjoy them along with their Texas Rangers 2011 World Series champs T-shirts.
So who is going to build these lovely places? The BBC reports that “over 90% of Qatar's workforce is made up of foreign migrant workers, many of them from South and East Asia,” and several labor unions argue that the workers are not being treated humanely and that, in fact, it's a modern-day form of slavery.
"FIFA has the power to make labor rights a requirement of the Qatari authorities who are hosting a World Cup," Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation told Reuters.
FIFA has used its political might in the past, imposing a “code of working practice” and contractor compliance on the manufacturing of soccer balls that carry the FIFA logo in order to combat child labor being used to make them.
Qatar's "ability to deliver the World Cup is totally dependent on severe exploitation of migrant labor, which we believe to be barely above forced labor conditions," said Ambet Yuson, general secretary of the Building Workers International, the BBC notes.
The protest worked, with FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke vowing to work with Qatar to address international concerns over labor conditions and workers' rights in Qatar.
The dust-up comes as FIFA — still reeling from corruption allegations — faces another embarrassement today, with fresh calls for the resignation of FIFA President Sepp Blatter (in the middle, at top) "after saying racial abuse on the soccer field could be settled by a handshake and quickly forgotten," as AP notes.
"Blatter’s latest gaffe follows previous verbal missteps such as suggesting that female players should wear tighter shorts, and gay fans should refrain from having sex at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar where homosexual acts are illegal. Blatter managed to further discredit FIFA just weeks after he won some praise for promising to confront allegations of financial wrongdoing by senior colleagues as part of reforms following damaging allegations of bribery, vote-rigging and ticket scams."
Watching FIFA is proving to be livelier and scrappier than the sport it governs — although we don't think that's the intention of soccer's governing body.