The Brutality Behind Qatar’s World Cup Stadium


While the World Cup is over and Messi has cemented himself as one of the greatest players of all time with Argentina’s win, something has been bubbling under the surface throughout the tournament: the Kafala System. This oppressive, and largely unknown, system has been used to build the stadiums in which these sacred games are played. 

The Kafala System describes an arrangement where laborers from certain countries, usually Southeast Asia, journey to other countries for work with the help of a sponsor. This system usually takes place in Gulf countries – which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – which need migrant workers to build grand and fancy buildings funded by money from the sale of oil. 

While this system might seem great on the surface — providing poor and underprivileged people in Southeast Asia the chance to earn and send money back home — the Kafala System has served as a tool of brutality and pain. Many migrant workers live in horrendous conditions in their home country, and see this program as a way of climbing the social ladder. However, once they arrive in the new country, they are often denied the money promised to them, and become stuck because the Kafala System gives too much power to the sponsor. Vox News reported that these sponsors can control if the migrant workers can change jobs, as well as when they can leave the country, essentially giving sponsors total power over workers’ lives. 

This system has also been guilty of horrible human rights abuses and overt racism. In the building of the World Cup stadiums there have been many examples of unexplained deaths and injuries as workers were forced to work in brutal heat for an inhumane number of hours at a time. In fact, the number of deaths in the building of these stadiums alone is estimated to be close to 6,500. Other human rights abuses include workers being forced to live in overcrowded and dilapidated housing away from society, because Qatar wants to hide their secret from the world. Migrant workers have also faced conspicuous racism with CNN reporting that a supervisor called one of the workers a “monkey,” and when the worker stood up against that racism, he was slapped in the face. These abuses have degraded migrant workers to feeling less than human, and have left a stain on the World Cup games. 

There is much that needs to be done to fight against this system, both in Qatar and also throughout the rest of the Middle East, where countries want to grow their infrastructure and impress Western businesses and governments, leading to the need for more laborers. Western Countries should impose sanctions on these nations until a fair system of labor is created, as the potential damage done to their economies would force them to reform. 

FIFA needs to change as well, and stop supporting and giving in to the requests of countries which treat people so outrageously. The FIFA president, who is supposedly supportive of human rights, called the recent World Cup games the “best ever” in a damaging and degrading statement. No games that have been built on the backs of abused migrant workers can be the “best ever.” It is necessary for countries around the world to fight these crimes against humanity and ensure that no country is ever put on a pedestal while using the Kafala System again.