Tag Archives: editorial

A World Cup to Die For

Over 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since 2010 as the death toll continues to rise, with many of those deaths occurring on FIFA World Cup related projects. The figure brings Qatar’s exploitative kafala labor system and lack of migrant worker’s rights to the fore. Change is needed, and FIFA must speak out.

Since making the controversial decision to award Qatar the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, over 6,500 migrant workers from South Asia have died. The total number of migrant worker deaths is believed to be considerably greater. The 6,500-death toll does not include the vast number of workers from nations such as Kenya.

Migrant workers are tasked with bolstering Qatari infrastructure in preparation for the 2022 World Cup. Many of the dead are linked to World Cup related projects including stadium, airport, and hotel construction.  

Kafala system controls migrant workers

These workers are tied to the exploitative kafala system which grants employers control over employee passports. They are forced to remain in the Arab State and their pay is often withheld for months or not given at all. Under this system, workers must hand over their passports on arrival. They feel trapped and held like prisoners. Kept in inhumane conditions and overworked in soaring summer temperatures, many of those who died constructing the stadiums collapsed from exhaustion. There are several reported cases of suicide. The data released on causes of death points not to normal workplace accidents, but to widespread neglect and maltreatment.

The death toll is only one part of a wider problem. Those migrant workers living within the nation often pay over $1,000 simply to begin working.  They live in “pathetic” and “oppressive” conditions, as one Kenyan worker tells the BBC. The workday starts as early as 04:00 and lasts all day, with only warm drinking water available. The workers live in overcrowded camps or dorms and live with “filthy” sanitation. They have no air conditioning to help cope with the 45C summer heat. Talking to the BBC, a British worker who was working on a World Cup construction site as a supervisor describes the situation. He explains that health and safety regulations are “non-existent” and that he is “horrified at the risks taken every day on the site.”

Qatar too slow to change

The response by the Qatari government to the endemic mistreatment of migrant workers, something that they do not deny, continues to be limited. In 2018, Qatar set out a plan to reform its Kafala system. They are failing to uphold this promise. Since joining the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in May of 2018, Qatar insists on a list of formal reservations. They deprive migrant workers of some of the important protections that the treaty normally guarantees. Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, states that “while Qatar has taken some important steps to protect human rights, there is still a long way to go before migrant workers are protected from abuse and exploitation.”

FIFA complacent in rising death toll

The situation in Qatar reveals more than the need for domestic reform. It makes clear that FIFA disregard human rights. The world’s leading football association, following the 2018 Russia World Cup, are once again showing their role in “sportswashing”. The term describes a nation – often one accused of human rights violations – using sport to rebrand itself. Sportswashing nations are hiding behind the façade of glamour and sport to cover up a negative image of the nation. Awarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar exposes widespread corruption within FIFA. The fact that these nations bought the right to host the event for this very purpose was clear.

FIFA, the organizers of the world’s most watched sports event which holds corporate partnerships with giants such as Coca-Cola, Visa, McDonald’s, and Adidas, have very little to say on the issue of migrant workers in Qatar. In direct contradiction with the testimonies of workers and observers, a spokesperson claimed:

“WITH THE VERY STRINGENT HEALTH AND SAFETY MEASURES ON SITE … THE FREQUENCY OF ACCIDENTS ON FIFA WORLD CUP CONSTRUCTION SITES HAS BEEN LOW WHEN COMPARED TO OTHER MAJOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS AROUND THE WORLD.”

This claim is not supported by any evidence. With inconsistency and poor collaboration between nations in recording the number of migrant worker deaths, it is difficult to know the true extent of the problem. What is clear is that change to the kafala system is essential and urgently needed. FIFA must confront the issue, or risk endorsing through silence the exploitation of migrants and disregard for human rights.

Written By Harry Markham

A Raw Tribute to Mr. Brodie Lee

Mr. Brodie Lee recently reminded me to never stop betting on myself, so I felt compelled to dedicate this month’s editorial entirely to him. As a preface, this piece is going to be a little raw (no pun intended).

Professional wrestling is one of those interests that became part of my life along the way. I think it’s a misconception that older wrestling fans are all die-hards. People don’t realize that wrestling is simply another item on The List (pun intended) of things we enjoy, similar to watching the NBA, playing Fantasy Football, or binge-watching new shows.

People who don’t like wrestling will always think it’s stupid and weird. They’ll adopt the generic, stereotypical position that people who enjoy wrestling are stupid weird. Well, my response to this lately has been, “You know what? I think people simulating rape and murder on shows like Criminal Minds is pretty fucking weird.”

If people just knew how many deaths the longtime wrestling fan must endure, maybe they’d leave us alone. When I was barely a teenager, the great Owen Hart plunged to his death during a live WWE show. I thought it was tragic and rare at the time. Now I know it was just tragic.

Fans react differently to the passing of wrestlers based on their own histories of reinforcement. Perhaps they remember watching their favorite wrestler on WCW Saturday Night with their father or maybe they have a special WrestleMania memory involving close friends. Add to this the often tragic, abrupt, and unexpected nature of deaths in wrestling, and it’s easy to see why adult wrestling fans have such strong emotional reactions to events like Brodie Lee’s recent passing.

Personally, my history of reinforcement with Mr. Brodie Lee was very brief – like 6 months of being an All Elite Wrestling (AEW) fan brief. For whatever reason, I was in one of those life phases in which I wasn’t paying much attention to wrestling when Lee was big bootin’ people as Luke Harper. I knew of his existence, but not much beyond what he looked like. But when Mr. Brodie Lee debuted on AEW Dynamite last year in the midst of COVID-19, I was paying attention to wrestling. I loved Lee’s look and mischievous energy. Watching from home, his charisma was palpable in that empty stadium.

Fortunately, due to the pandemic, I was in a life phase where I could watch AEW Dynamite every Wednesday. This meant getting weekly doses of Mr. Brodie Lee as leader of The Dark Order. I wasn’t quite sure the direction in which Lee would take this group of misfits but I was excited to find out. Then it happened. After a Dark Order segment to end Dynamite, I did a google search of “Brodie Lee” and “WWE”. The fact that I did this search outside of my allotted TV watching time signaled to me that I was now an official fan of Mr. Brodie Lee.

The articles and podcast transcripts produced by my Google search only made me a bigger aficionado of the Exalted One. I learned that Lee, real name Jon Huber, decided to leave the WWE and safe money behind to pursue new opportunities in AEW. The decision didn’t seem to be made on whim, however. After years of giving his blood, sweat, and tears to the WWE, Huber concluded he was not going to receive a huge push or promotion in the company any time soon. I got the impression he wanted to stay there – until he didn’t. Maybe he saw AEW as a more realistic path to his desired spotlight. Whatever his motivations, Huber took that path and became an AEW champion rather quickly. I must admit, seeing him destroy Cody Rhodes in a blink of an eye was pretty damn awesome to watch.

Luke Harper or Brodie Lee were never a part of my greatest memories (unless you consider watching wrestling during a pandemic good times). So why is the recent passing of Jon Huber hitting me extra hard if I was only a true fan of the man for about 6 months? Our history of reinforcement together was brief to say the least.

Perhaps it has to do with Huber’s path to that TNT Television title.

Perhaps, as a grown-ass fanboy closing in on four decades of life, I know what it feels like to scratch and claw and give everything you have – and still not achieve a desired result.

Perhaps it’s because I know what it feels like to take a leap of faith while trying to outrun father time.

And how it feels like to have to provide my credit score to people less credible than me.

Perhaps it’s because some days I want to give up.

Or perhaps it’s because Mr. Brodie Lee reminded me that it’s never too late to raise that strap.