“If Qatar is unbeatable, it’s not just the World Cup that we have to boycott”

On November 20, the World Cup will open in Qatar. And already the controversy is launched: should we boycott it or not? What is being talked about is not the sports boycott, that is to say the fact that a qualified team does not go there, but rather the boycott by spectators or television viewers.

The argument of the host country which has no sporting tradition, used today against Qatar, has often been used in the past: this was the case against the United States in 1994 or Japan and South Korea in 2002. The choice of South Africa for the organization of the 2010 World Cup was accepted: it was time for an African country to host the competition.

Air-conditioned stadiums

Fifa wants to expand its empire. Awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar allows for the first time an Arab and Muslim country to organize the competition. Everyone now knows Qatar and, in this, the organization of the World Cup is a real success for Doha. But this visibility has also drawn attention to the less glamorous aspects of the country. The criticisms focus mainly on two issues, the climate issue and the situation of immigrant workers.

The stadiums are air-conditioned. In addition, many air travel will be necessary, some spectators being accommodated in neighboring countries. Such a situation is obviously open to criticism in view of the climatic situation, and the next competition to be co-organized by Mexico, the United States and Canada will be even more problematic. Concern for the environment has recently appeared with regard to the organization of sports competitions. This was not the case in 2010 when the World Cup was awarded to Qatar.

The situation of foreign workers

The other controversy Qatar is facing concerns the situation of immigrant workers. Qatar did not imagine, when it obtained the organization of the World Cup, that this subject would come to the forefront of the news. Undeniably, Qatar was slow to react. He finally made decisions that are visibly struggling to be fully implemented. Nevertheless, the kafala – system of guardianship of foreign workers – has been abolished and a minimum wage has been introduced. If the situation is still not satisfactory, it is, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), better than in the other countries of the region.

On this subject, the World Cup has served as a lever, in particular for NGOs such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, which have focused media attention on the plight of immigrant workers and continue to put pressure on Qatar.

Thousands of deaths over 10 years

the Guardian published a resounding article in February 2021 claiming that 6,500 workers had died at construction sites in Qatar. This is 6,500 deaths over ten years, not just on World Cup construction sites, but on all construction sites in Qatar. Without being really documented, this figure was taken up by a number of international media. For its part, Qatar recognizes that there were 38 deaths. This figure seems to greatly underestimate the reality. The ILO mentions the figure of 50 deaths for the year 2020 alone, but does not have statistics for previous years.

If we must obviously protest against the fate of immigrants in Qatar, we must also protest against their fate in the other Gulf countries and elsewhere. And, in the Qatari case, why only call for a boycott of the World Cup since the deaths on construction sites are not only linked to the work of the World Cup, but also to the construction of other infrastructures in the country, involving foreign companies elsewhere.

Stop selling him Rafale

If Qatar is an infrequent country, then it is not only the World Cup that must be boycotted. We should also stop selling it Rafale, Airbus and suspend the construction of infrastructure by Western companies in this country or even stop buying gas from it… Why are the calls for a boycott limited only to sport? The latter is systematically used as an adjustment variable for moral protests.

Everyone is free to watch World Cup matches or not. But it seems perfectly hypocritical to focus attacks only on the World Cup and keep quiet about the rest. Qatar is far from being a perfect country. It has a lot of progress to make, particularly with regard to human rights and environmental protection. The World Cup must be the way to push for this improvement rather than stigmatize the country. Especially when it comes to finding new gas supplies, having an intermediary in discussions between the various Chadian factions to negotiate a peace agreement or finding support in the evacuation of Western nationals from Kabul , Qatar appears to be a reliable partner.

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