The U.S. national men’s soccer team (USNMT) is being scrutinized for the ostensible compassion it showed some migrant workers at this year’s World Cup in Qatar.
On Tuesday, several team members “showed their appreciation to @FIFAWorldCup workers” — all of them reportedly migrants — by inviting them onto the field at Al Gharafa SC Stadium in Qatar’s capital city of Doha.
“Players joined the workers in some small-sided games,” the team’s official Twitter account announced Wednesday.
Gregg Berhalter and several #USMNT players showed their appreciation to @FIFAWorldCup workers for their efforts in Qatar with some fun on the field tonight at our official training site in Doha, Al Gharafa SC Stadium ⚽️
Players joined the workers in some small-sided games. pic.twitter.com/dPrRRxh0C4
— U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (@USMNT) November 16, 2022
Why all this fuss over them showing some migrants a good time? Because Qatar has a sordid history of abusing its migrant workers. Which, incidentally, is why there’s likewise been such a fuss over Qatar being chosen for this year’s World Cup.
“[T]he choice, made in 2010, also sparked instant criticism – over the logistics of holding a sporting event in a country where summertime temperatures regularly top 100 degrees; over allegations of bribery and corruption among FIFA officials who voted for Qatar; and over concerns about human rights abuses that have persisted in the years since,” NPR notes.
“Now, with the World Cup days away, the Gulf country is expecting the arrival of more than a million fans. And billions more will tune in to watch the tournament’s 64 games. Yet the controversies have not subsided,” according to NPR.
The biggest controversy is the number of migrant workers who’ve died building the stadiums, hotels, etc. needed for this year’s World Cup.
“More than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago,” The Guardian reported in February of 2021.
“The findings, compiled from government sources, mean an average of 12 migrant workers from these five south Asian nations have died each week since the night in December 2010 when the streets of Doha were filled with ecstatic crowds celebrating Qatar’s victory,” the outlet added.
Premier League based United States stars Christian Pulisic, Tim Ream and Tyler Adams played a friendly game with Migrant workers in Qatar last night. pic.twitter.com/ofJLPkmmBP
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) November 16, 2022
Many of these workers likely died preparing Qatar for the World Cup.
“In the past 10 years, Qatar has embarked on an unprecedented building programme, largely in preparation for the football tournament in 2022. In addition to seven new stadiums, dozens of major projects have been completed or are under way, including a new airport, roads, public transport systems, hotels and a new city, which will host the World Cup final,” according to The Guardian.
“While death records are not categorised by occupation or place of work, it is likely many workers who have died were employed on these World Cup infrastructure projects, says Nick McGeehan, a director at FairSquare Projects, an advocacy group specialising in labour rights in the Gulf,” The Guardian notes.
Speaking with the paper, McGeehan said, “A very significant proportion of the migrant workers who have died since 2011 were only in the country because Qatar won the right to host the World Cup.”
In light of all this, some critics say what the U.S. men’s national soccer team has done is nothing but a cynical PR move and that they would have been better off just boycotting this year’s World Cup:
— Louididdy (@louididdy) November 16, 2022
Way to late and way too little. I beat they were all heterosexual. Have fun dancing on the Dead
— Mark Colley (@MarkCol47307748) November 16, 2022
If they really wanted to show their appreciation they would have boycotted the World Cup. Hundreds died building those stadiums. #moderndayslavery
— Solomon (@SolomonJMart) November 16, 2022
Empty PR – what about the 6500 migrant workers that died? I’ll write a letter for USSF to sign and publicize tomorrow, addressed to FIFA, that says this whole World Cup is built on human rights violations and corruption, instead of this meaningless 30 minute kick around.
— Banquo (@leads_utd) November 16, 2022
— Eamonn Kelly (@Nedkelly1975) November 16, 2022
Note how one Twitter user wrote about the migrants most likely being “all heterosexual.” Male homosexuality is 100 percent illegal in Qatar, which, critics argue, is yet another reason the team should have boycotted the World Cup.
After all, just this week the USMNT unveiled a new rainbow version of its iconic crest to show solidarity with the gay community. Yet the team couldn’t resist coming to play the World Cup in one of the world’s most anti-gay nations?
It reeks of hypocrisy, critics say. However, others disagree. These supporters argue that any bit of “happiness” they can bring the migrants counts:
All negativity aside. This was probably a moment these “workers” will never forget. You can’t cure the world with one moment, but you can bring happiness in the lives of those around you with one. This moment was about a few men and was appreciated by them which is what matters.
— Thad Calton (@thad_calton) November 16, 2022
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