Qatar relaxed as world fumes
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Qatar may be embroiled in the biggest crisis ever to engulf world football, but you would never have guessed so in the country’s capital, Doha, on Wednesday.
While outside the Gulf, some of the footballing fraternity fulminated with fury at the FIFA corruption scandal, unions and rights groups continued to point the finger over labour conditions in 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar, South Africa denied bribery claims and Interpol put FIFA members on their most wanted list, inside the tiny Gulf state all was calm.
It seemed a day like any other.
Foreign laborers work at the construction site of the al-Wakrah football stadium, one of the Qatar’s 2022 World Cup stadiums, on May 4, 2015 ©Marwan Naamani (AFP/File)
The vast armies of blue-overalled migrant workers could be seen working away in temperatures which tipped past 50 degrees celsius (122 degrees farenheit), Doha’s notoriously busy roads were crammed full as usual and even the Qatar stock market finished the day pretty much as it started.
Local media reported Blatter’s resignation but there was little to link it to the possible removal of the World Cup from Qatar.
Qatar’s official response also seemed to suggest there was little to worry about.
The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy said the dramatic events in Zurich, which threaten a revolution in world football administration, would have “no impact” on the first World Cup in the Middle East.
Crisis, what crisis?
But if Qatar does end up losing the World Cup, some of those most vulnerable would be the million or so migrant labourers who have come to the country to work on World Cup-related projects.
Qatar is undergoing a huge spending splurge on infrastructure, worth around $200 billion (180 billion euros), much of it related to the World Cup.
As well as stadiums, cities, ports and railways are being built from scratch.
To fuel this, the number of workers from outside Qatar increases.
This week, Doha announced the country’s population had reached an all-time high of 2.37 million.
Up to one million of those are migrant blue collar workers, a number that will double by 2020, at least as long as Qatar keeps the World Cup.
If it doesn’t, then it is anyone’s guess what might happen to the workers on the frontline.
– ‘No cup, no jobs’ –
Baju, a construction worker from southern India, said on Wednesday that recruitment of workers from his country and others such as Bangladesh and Nepal would continue regardless of what happens in Switzerland.
Having just finished his shift in central Doha and resting in the shade at a bus stop, he said he was confident that there would still be work for many of his compatriots even if the 2022 tournament was hosted elsewhere.
He has worked in Qatar for five years and more worrying than the World Cup was the immediate issue of pay.
“Qatar is very expensive,” he told AFP before adding that he earned 1,200 Qatari Riyals ($330, 290 euros a month).”Here, no good.”
Ganesh Neelakantan, a senior sports reporter with local magazine Doha Stadium Plus, said any concerns that are now being expressed are economic rather than sporting.
“People are worried about their jobs. There’s a lot of expatriates here and there’s a concern that projects could be put on hold,” he said.”2022 is a real driving force for Qatar.”
As if to prove his point, another worker, a Nepalese man called Dritan said on Wednesday he was not so sure workers could remain in the country if football’s greatest tournament was taken away.
“No World Cup, no jobs,” he told AFP.
Foreign laborers working on the construction site of the al-Wakrah football stadium, one of the Qatar’s 2022 World Cup stadiums, walk back to their accomodation at the Ezdan 40 compound after finishing work on May 4, 2015 ©Marwan Naamani (AFP/File)