Unions connect soccer players with migrant workers in Qatar

"We know that our rights as players are linked to those rights of the workers in Qatar," said Alex Wilkinson, president of the Australian soccer players' union after their interaction with them.

Published: 16th July 2021 11:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th July 2021 11:17 AM   |  A+A-

View of the Al Janoub Stadium, one of the 2022 World Cup stadiums, in Doha, Qatar

View of the Al Janoub Stadium, one of the 2022 World Cup stadiums, in Doha, Qatar. (File Photo | AP)

By Associated Press

GENEVA: Soccer players have talked with migrant workers in Qatar to learn more about their conditions while building stadiums and other projects for the 2022 World Cup.

The direct conversations were revealed at the launch on Thursday in Brussels of a three-year cooperation between the global players' union FIFPRO and the Building and Woodworkers' International which represents construction workers.

The BWI also published its latest report on Qatar's efforts to modernize labour laws that have been severely criticized since the tiny emirate's massive World Cup hosting project was picked by soccer body FIFA in 2010.

Players want to connect directly with migrant workers to help ensure change in Qatar beyond the World Cup final in December next year.

"We will continue to engage and to learn more," said Alex Wilkinson, president of the Australian soccer players' union who represented his country at the 2014 World Cup.

"We know that our rights as players are linked to those rights of the workers in Qatar."

Amid rising activism by athletes across sports in the past year, soccer players in European national teams campaigned in support of human rights at World Cup qualifying games in March.

Germany, Netherlands and Norway players wore T-shirts in team photos before games that were seen as directing scrutiny on Qatar.

FIFA did not discipline the acts, saying then it believes in the freedom of speech, and in the power of football as a force for good.

"World Cup qualifiers resume in September and the players' campaign will only get better, more powerful, and more organized," Finland defender Tim Sparv said on Thursday at the unions' online news conference.

"Players have no say in decisions to award hosting rights for competitions for which they become the public face," he said.

"We are expected to obey any decisions taken by the people in power. I personally don't think that's possible anymore," said Sparv, who captained Finland at Euro 2020 last month.

FIFPRO general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said his members want to see “concrete actions” to keep enforcing Qatar's laws that included abolishing the kafala system that strictly tied migrant workers to employers.

"We need to make sure (changes) last beyond the tournament," Baer-Hoffmann said.

FIFA and World Cup organizers in Qatar have long insisted that winning hosting rights for soccer's biggest event speeded up social change.

BWI deputy president Dietmar Schäfers acknowledged "baby steps" in Qatar's new labour laws were in fact “huge leaps forward" within the region's employment culture.

Schäfers compared working with Qatar favourably to the union being denied access to building projects for the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, and in Saudi Arabia where there “isn't even any willingness to engage with the BWI.

Recommendations in the latest BWI report on Qatar, called "Dribble or Goal?" include urging FIFA and local organizers to help set up and fund a center for migrant workers.

"It would be a 'safe place' for migrants to learn about their rights and to seek legal assistance and advice," the report stated.

Follow The New Indian Express channel on WhatsApp


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp