Qatar's selection to host the World Cup in 2022 already faces a number of difficult issues: the scorching summer heat; their general attitude toward Israelis and gay people; and the lack of alcohol. Well, add one more problem to that list — slavery.
That latest issue comes courtesy of an explosive report from The Guardian today, which explored the reasons why 44 Nepalese migrant workers died in Qatar between June 4 and August 8, while working on construction projects related to the Cup. Likening their treatment to "modern-day slavery," the article quoted several laborers who claimed they worked ungodly hours; went unfed and unpaid; lived in squalid conditions; and were restricted from leaving the country. As one worker grimly described it:
"We were working on an empty stomach for 24 hours; 12 hours' work and then no food all night," said Ram Kumar Mahara, 27. "When I complained, my manager assaulted me, kicked me out of the labour camp I lived in and refused to pay me anything. I had to beg for food from other workers."
Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, said that the awful conditions and deaths "go beyond forced labour to the slavery of old where human beings were treated as objects. There is no longer a risk that the World Cup might be built on forced labour. It is already happening," he told The Guardian. And the emirate hasn't even begun to build its proposed nine new expansive soccer stadiums. With construction needed for a new airport, roads, high-speed trains, and hotels, The Guardian estimates that Qatar will use 1.5 million more workers to prepare for the tournament.
Qatar's plan also faces serious logistical issues, starting with the obvious: How will a desert country with 120-degree heat host outdoor games in the summertime? Soccer executives have suggested moving the World Cup to winter, but it would break from a long tradition and interfere with the typical fall-to-winter soccer seasons around the globe.
It was for that reason that Blatter admitted last week that "it may well be that we made a mistake" in choosing Qatar. The next question is: Is he willing to correct it?
(Photo of Blatter and Qatar Football Association president: AP Photo/Osama Faisal, File)