It is the beautiful game. But a football match in Brussels on Monday had a serious message – denouncing what players see as Qatar’s abuse of workers’ rights in the run up to the 2022 World Cup.
The aim of the game, organised by trade unionists and other activists, was to play without hitting a symbolic migrant worker inside an inflatable ball.
“One worker dies every day,” said Sharan Burrow, Secretary-General of the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation. “We are saying to governments ‘act’. Workers’ rights, workers’ lives, have to be more important than the money Qatar is investing in your country.”
Qatar’s global clout is, activists feel, preventing more pressure being put on the Gulf state.
They took their cause to Belgian Football Association President, Francois De Keersmaecker, presenting him with a shirt reading: “Don’t play with workers’ lives”.
“We, as the Belgian Football Association, support the call being made by the trade unions that the workers in Qatar must do their jobs in the best possible conditions,” said De Keersmaecker.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper raised the alarm, reporting that dozens of Nepalese workers had died on Qatari building sites this summer. Activists estimate that 4,000 migrant workers will die in Qatar before it hosts the World Cup if no action is taken.