Athletica has live coverage of Japan vs Costa Rica in the World Cup.
Hundreds of people gather inside the cricket stadium on the outskirts of Doha. There is a funfair layout with food and drink stands, 5-a-side football pitches and cushions. The big screen broadcasts the FIFA World Cup match, while the half-time shows the performance of Indian dancers.
Welcome to the “Industrial Fan Zone”, located in Asia Town, which is essentially Qatar’s male migrant. Qatar has a population of approximately 2.9 million people, the majority of whom are made up of migrant workers or low-level foreigners. Qatari nationals number only 380,000. The Asian city is a shopping and entertainment complex near the “City of Work”, which opened in 2015 and accommodates 70,000 migrant workers who have helped with construction projects that have been critical to the City’s World Cup.
Hundreds of thousands of workers live in this area of Doha. Despite their essential role in creating this World Cup, many of the fan zones that frequent the tourist center of the city are off-limits to workers. This is because access requires a Hayya card, whose registration corresponds to the possession of the tickets.
Many workers to by Athletic they said they could not buy tickets for the match in Qatar, although a significant number of empty seats were visible during the games. A small number of Qatar resident tickets were available for 40 Qatari riyals ($11 USD) in the card, but these proved elusive for many workers. The higher rates, with tickets going up to 800 riyals, were far away from most people.
At first glance, the Industrial Fan Zone is an elevated sight. People from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Philippines, Kenya and Uganda coexist harmoniously, enjoying group games, chatting and escaping from the daily grind. FIFA branding is present on the signs and one message, written in English, Arabic and Hindi, reads: “Thank you for your contributions for delivering the best FIFA World Cup ever.”
But the shiny will be decorated with shine and a more serious image emerges. The group tells Kenyan workers how to leave the country with the promise of greater opportunity in Qatar. They ask to be named so that they do not allow their work in the country. One showed me his contract document on his mobile phone. “We receive 1,000 Qatari riyals ($275, £227) per month, as well as a stipend of 300 riyals ($82) per month. The food stipend is taken away as soon as you enter, so you can eat at the facility next to where the workers sleep.
The dormitories (included with the job offer) house four men in each room – they sleep in bunk beds – but the Ugandan worker said there are other dormitories that sleep as many as twelve people in the same room. The other four men’s rooms, as shown in the pictures, have a low mattress in each corner, while each worker was provided with a tall cupboard.
The salary of these Kenyans, if spread over 12 months, becomes approximately 2,725 pounds or $3,295 annually. A Kenyan employee said Athletic He had paid a Kenyan recruitment agency 100,000 Kenyan shillings ($818 or £676) to secure his position in Qatar but the agency had told him he would earn twice the figure he is currently earning per month. He will be working on World Cup security for three months, before committing to work for a further two years for an international security company employing staff in Qatar.
“I can do nothing,” he said in a low voice. “Many of us come here with an immediate debt that we borrow money to have a chance. I am completely powerless in this matter. If I complain, I am afraid of losing my job. But unfortunately I need more money, because I am here to make a better life for my family. I want money home I am trying to send my siblings to Kenya, but it leaves me with almost nothing to live on.
He, like many others Athletic he talks, asks about life in England and laments how difficult it seems to be to get to the village he depicts as an island of milk and honey. They ask to be continued to hear more about England. They ask what they can do for residency, whether they need a sponsor and joking about who they need to marry.
This part of Doha, located about a 25-minute drive outside of the center, is a very different demographic of Doha to which the pro-travellers were accustomed in the first week of World City. Very few Qataris roam in this neck of the woods and very few Qataris roam about. There are also almost no women in sight because there are male workers and this zone is almost exclusively made up of migrant workers. Not all those who attend are humbled. A few IT technicians from India living in Qatar say that they have watched the matches in this World Cup and say that they want to spend time with the Indian diaspora in this area.
The Qatari organizers of this World Cup will probably argue that the fan zone is a nice gesture for the workers who have sacrificed so much to produce this tournament. And this is only talking about those who survived, with the number of deaths in dispute between the rights group and the state of Qatar.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino told the European Parliament that this year only three migrant workers died in the construction of World Cup stadiums in Qatar – according to figures supplied by Qatar. However, Nicholas McGeehan of the human rights organization FairSquare has previously called that figure “a deliberate attempt to deceive” as eight stadiums account for only about one percent of the World Cup-related construction.
Human Rights Watch said the exact number may never be known because “Qatari authorities have failed to investigate the causes of the deaths of thousands of migrant workers, many of which are attributed to ‘natural causes.'” Nepal’s labor ministry alone says 2,100 of its citizens have died in Qatar of all causes since 2010, the start of this World War. was given in the year
As Saudi Arabia’s fixture against Poland begins, the venue becomes occupied. While the fan zones in the city center attract media attention, there are very few journalists present here and a very small number of FIFA employees. There are some guest relations supervisors, such as Patrick from Uganda, who is a qualified teacher, but finds himself shepherding immigrants in and out of the venue.
The least benign interpretation of this event is that it demonstrates a form of segregation where low-income workers, almost entirely of South Asian or African descent, are barred from the main event elsewhere in Qatar. It would be unfair to characterize the crimes of migrant workers as a unique issue in Qatar. One Ugandan worker, for example, says that he is in a WhatsApp group with people spread across the country, in countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and that similar issues occur there. While we are talking, one of his friends writes from Uganda, asking for advice on taking a job in a Qatar-based company. He wrote back to say that he had heard that this company did not always comply with the labor laws introduced by the state of Qatar in recent years, meaning that workers’ wages were sometimes even lower than the minimum monthly wage of 1000 riyals. He explains that for some, the desperation of life back home in their countries is such that they accept a reduced salary anyway.
At the fan zone, another Ugandan worker, who is 30 years old, talked about football. He says his team is England because he loves the city of Manchester. We agree that Phil Foden started the match. He has an 8-year-old daughter who sends money home every month. He has dreams and wishes. He wants to study finance and accounting, but the need for money in the short term for his family always came first. He lived in Doha for three years. He still shares a room with three other people. His salary is competitive (even 1000 riyals). He points out that his hostels don’t have a fridge and that the on-site grocery store is expensive, so even efforts to cut costs are complicated. The food that is provided is from the monthly food section, often very hot.
“I can do something, but not every day,” he said. “Sometimes with the regime of room, board, food, work, life feels a little like a prison I imagine.” Not all, it must be said, will be pledged. The Kenyan man, who is a recent arrival, says he is grateful for the additional security training he has received since starting work in Qatar, which he believes will open up future opportunities.
I ask the Ugandan man if he sees a future in Qatar far beyond the World Cup. I hope not, said he, even his voice was silent. “There is no opportunity to advance here. I did not feel the opportunities to advance, because good jobs are prioritized for Qatari nationals”.
She also defiantly laughs that her love life is not much because she is surrounded by male workers and says she worries about the scandal of Qatari women approaching them. “And I don’t think foreign tourists will be attracted to me as a poor man,” he said.
He smiles, before driving, out of the fan zone, back to the dorm, ready for another week of work.
(Top image: Adam Crafton)