Tag Archives: soccer

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

Kaiser! The Greatest Footballer Never to Play Football

Born in Rio Pardo, Brazil, Carlos Henrique Raposo had dreams of becoming a professional soccer (futbol) player. After a youth career at Botafogo and Flamengo, he had his sights set on the future. Whether given the nickname “Kaiser” due to his resemblance of superstar Franz Beckenbauer or a bottle of Kaiser beer, he used his new-found name to begin a career where he “wanted to be a footballer, but did not want to play football.”

Thus began a decade-plus career that spanned across Brazil (Botafogo, Flamengo, Bangu, Fluminense, Vasco da Gama, and America), Mexico (Puebla), France (Gazelec Ajaccio), and the United States (El Paso Sixshooters). Relying on his charm and friends in high places—from fellow footballers Carlos Alberto Torres, Ricardo Rocha, and Renato Gaucho, to reporters willing to write “stories” of his “career”— Carlos Kaiser used his skills of deception to have a storied career without ever stepping foot on the pitch.

Whether faking injuries, having friends lie for him, making up tall tales, or getting thrown out of a match just before taking the field, Kaiser! The Greatest Footballer Never to Play Football is an incredible story of the lengths one man went to have a professional soccer career without every playing a game.

Originally published in the UK, and with a worldrenowned documentary released on his lifeKaiser! shares the lengths taken by one man who wanted all the glitz and glory of being a professional athlete . . . without ever having to be an actual athlete. So whether you’re a fan of soccer, futbol, professional sports, or stories of cunning and deception, Kaiser! is the story you don’t want to miss!

FSM Movies: Escape to Victory

Sylvester Stallone is the gift that keeps on giving. Younger movie fans get the gift of discovering classic after classic as if each one was brand new. Older fans, who have the Rocky films memorized already, get the gift of quirky new projects and random appearances in things like the Marvel Universe. This review is more for the younger fans who may be aware that Stallone ended communism in Rocky IV but didn’t know he also helped end fascism by playing soccer in the movie Escape to Victory.

Headlined by the loveable Sir Michael Cane and directed by Hollywood legend John Huston, Victory was released to the masses in 1981. Since this film fell under the rare “War/Sport” genre, it made sense to cast Sylvester Stallone as he had recently played war hero John Rambo and boxing underdog Rocky Balboa.

In Victory, Stallone plays a World War II era prisoner-of-war named Captain Robert Hatch. He spends most days watching the cooler prisoners kick a soccer ball around before ending up as the team’s unlikely goalkeeper. These cooler prisoners were made up of actual soccer stars of the time such as Pelé, Bobby Moore, and Robin Turner.

For some strange reason in the film, a high-ranking Nazi officer played by Max von Sydow thinks it would be great for morale around the world to have these allied prisoners-of-war (who happen to be really really good at soccer) play an exhibition match against a German super team. Of course, the match is intended to be used as propaganda and perhaps a symbol of how Germany would crush the allies in war. Movie fans can probably guess that Stallone, Caine, and the rest of the allies put up a heck of a fight on the field. But a dilemma arises when the players have a chance to escape. This is when the movie gets especially enjoyable.

Victory is a pleasant ride from start to finish. The film presents many WW-II themes but with a lighter touch – something that’s perfect for a war movie about soccer! Additionally, the great chemistry of all cast members is evident from the opening few scenes. Stallone shines in a role that may have been written with him in mind. Pelé seems like a natural actor. The other professional footballers don’t try too hard (in a good way). And Michael Caine and Max von Sydow absolutely carry the movie. A younger Caine brings his spunky energy as the leader of the allies while von Sydow’s acting almost makes you feel bad for a Nazi.

While the subject matter and era are taken seriously, Victory feels like it could be the child of The Dirty Dozen and The Replacements. It’s not quite a war or sports movie and doesn’t necessarily try to inform the viewer of anything that’s not already known. But it’s a fun story you’ve probably never experienced before. Its ending is also one of the most underrated endings in sports movie history (no spoilers here except that Stallone is involved).

FSM Final Grade: B

Click here to purchase Victory today!