At the World Innovation Summit for Health in Doha on October 7, FIFA President Gianni Infantino repeatedly stated that the upcoming 2022 Qatar Men’s World Cup will be the “best World Cup ever.”
He gushed over “state-of-the-art” stadiums, the transportation system that “works perfectly” and “great” accommodations. In doing so, Infantino rightfully acknowledged that delivering the World Cup is not just about the stadiums in Qatar but also the surrounding infrastructure. But he said nothing about the abuses many migrant workers faced building all of this. More shamefully, with the World Cup less than 50 days away, Infantino and FIFA have still not committed to remedy the abuses faced by migrant workers who made the Games possible.
The theme of the conference was “healing the future.” But over the past 12 years, at least tens of thousands of workers have sacrificed their health toiling in Qatar’s extreme heat, suffered physical or mental health issues from wage theft and other abuses, or died in preventable, unexplained, and uninvestigated deaths. Healing for them and their families cannot happen without remedy, which includes financial compensation. Reforms introduced by Qatari authorities in recent years have come too late for many of them to adequately prevent or address these harms.
Yet Infantino is publicly oblivious to the realities of migrant workers. In May, he insulted workers by declaring, “When you give work to somebody, even in hard conditions, you give him dignity and pride.” There is no dignity in employment rife with stolen wages where abusive employers hold unchecked power over workers.
By failing to publicly commit to remedy past abuses, FIFA is not living up to its own statutes and responsibilities under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In addition, Infantino is also ignoring the growing call for remedy from different stakeholders FIFA is accountable to, fans, sponsors, football associations, and athletes, who do not want to be associated with the abuses that have stained the game.
Infantino continues to make light of the situation that has come at a large human cost. “FIFA is an official provider of happiness since 1904, since FIFA was created,” he stated cheerfully. For some of the most marginalized people harmed making the tournament possible, this could not be further from the truth. FIFA needs to change course and take corrective action to remedy abuses, or there will be little to celebrate at this tournament.