After the soccer World Cup: Ghost stadiums & workers’ misery – Qatar eludes the spotlight again

Qatar has been preparing for four weeks in late autumn 2022 for twelve years. After the brilliant finale, the exhausted spotlights of the world wander on. The tournament leaves more questions than answers that hardly exist on site. The light disappears. The future is unclear. But is that still of interest?

What will happen to Qatar once the World Cup is gone? Within just twelve years, the emirate has stamped the entire infrastructure for the first city World Cup in history into the desert soil. The gigantic apartment blocks in Lusail and on The Pearl will hardly find new tenants and will remain in the desert sand as memories of the World Cup. In the vicinity of the final stadium is already the new Yasmeen City built.

The stadiums, cathedrals of Qatari capitalism, will be partially dismantled and, in the case of Stadium 974 on the shores of the Persian Gulf, completely dismantled. It is still unclear where and in which country it will appear again. The Lusail Iconic Stadium, site of Sunday’s historic final, will very likely never see a game again. It is supposed to be added to the “civilian use”, which, however, hardly becomes apparent when looking at the concrete desert in the north of Doha.

The Army of the Faceless

Doha is a city of contradictions. Penned up in the residential complexes of the Industrial Area, the migrant workers eke out a more than modest existence. Sometimes the people from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sudan and Co. share the smallest room in seven. They literally work until they drop, sometimes all day and all night. Abuse and human rights violations are tacitly added for fear of penalties and job loss. Because they all have in common that they came to Qatar because there is only corruption and no work in their home countries. But many have no idea that they would experience such misery in the richest country on earth.

Construction workers, taxi and bus drivers, servants, waiters, cleaners – they all form the backbone of Qatari society. But this army of the faceless is not allowed to share in the wealth and glitter of the country. The government of the emirate makes them third-class citizens, after the locals and Western workers in the country. Infrastructure, laws and the types of jobs performed ensure that these population groups do not mix and that the lowest class has almost no contact with the better off.

Cruel test for FC Bayern

In Doha, one parallel world crashes into the next. Traffic never stops on the city’s countless thoroughfares, even late at night, and the facades of West Bay, Lusails and The Pearl glitter non-stop. The migrants from the industrial area humbly serve those who like to flaunt their immense wealth. In the Metro, to the relief of the Qataris, class segregation will return, numerous helpers will leave the country, as will all fans and journalists.

With the departure of world champion Lionel Messi, the attention of the world public will also disappear. It will leave behind a country that is also torn apart, in which the conservative forces will cling to their old values ​​and the pro-Western hope that the human rights organizations will not withdraw from the country. They should continue to participate in the development of the emirate.

This “staying in dialogue” will boil up again in football Germany in the next few months. As early as January, FC Bayern Munich are drawn to the Aspire Academy near the Khalifa Stadium, the site of the German debacle against Japan. In addition to the training camp, there should also be a possible extension of the highly controversial contract with Qatar Airways within the club. This question has been a crucial test for the record champion for a long time. Will FC Bayern “look further” with the grant of several million or will Qatar even drop the club in the end?

Crushing Judgment

One thing is clear: when it comes to human rights, Qatar needs permanent reforms that really take effect and are not just on paper. Which could be a beacon for other countries. Because Qatar is an example of the Gulf region, where human rights also run. There is probably still a long way to go before this changes. The experience of China and Russia, for example, where the Olympic Games took place in 2008 and the soccer World Cup in 2018, shows that the human rights situation does not improve as a result of such major events.

On the contrary. Wenzel Michalski, Germany director of Human Rights Watch, told “Welt am Sonntag”: “The World Cup went just as badly as feared.” The members of FIFA would also have to “draw consequences” from this and “work on a profound change in the organization”. But a change in the world association is hardly to be expected.

Qatar is preserved for football

Either way, Qatar will remain a common name in European football. With Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé they are the superstars of the tournament, both running for the Qatari club Paris Saint-Germain. In addition to the traditional club from the French capital, one of the big English clubs could soon be taken over by Qatar. Emirate-owned bank QNB is interested in giants Manchester United and Liverpool FC up for sale, sources on the streets of Doha say.

PSG boss Nasser Al-Khelaifi guarantees that Qatar will continue to hold a dominant position among the many countries pushing into the European market. Through his role as CEO of beIn Sports, he holds countless broadcasting rights to European competitions and, as chairman of the European Club Association and a powerful UEFA official, has dug himself deeply into the decision-making levels.

With all the justified criticism of Qatar, it is important not only to point the finger in a lecturing manner, but also to look at Germany’s transgressions. It should not be forgotten that the DFB stole the summer fairy tale of 2006 home. The focus on Germany will also become sharper in the coming 18 months before the European Championship. How does the country treat the refugees who are driven to Europe by the wars and crises of the world? What are the living conditions like for the harvest workers and those in the meat industry?

Berlin’s connection to Doha is also growing politically and economically. While the human rights violations are denounced, the governments of both countries close deals worth billions. Gas that will flow through German households in the future will also cause suffering among the exploited migrant workers.

The right to intoxication

Back to the World Cup. The good organization of the tournament, the countless friendly helpers and the absence of any violence will be remembered. The country’s totalitarian system is deterrent enough to nip any kind of unrest in the bud. The fear of the arbitrariness of the security forces suppresses everything. This arbitrariness can be observed in small moments in the game between the USA and Iran. There, henchmen of the mullahs’ regime bring excerpts from their homeland’s terror to the citizens of Iran who are protesting against the regime. Qatar’s emergency services – like the briefly shocked world public – just look on and do nothing. You let it happen. Public interest is also fading fast.

The short attention span is guaranteed by the high frequency of the games. The tournament is restless like a night in Doha when the workers gather at 3am for their breaks, have tea and disappear into the anonymity of their existence. The excitement about the beer ban issued shortly before kick-off is quickly forgotten. Months in advance, Budweiser, the beer sponsor, is said to have discussed a possible sales ban in talks with the organizers. But it was only when the pressure on social media in Qatar became too great that the organizer remembered and reacted quickly. The World Cup should not only radiate out into the world, but also take everyone in the emirate with it.

The lack of right to intoxication is evident in Doha over the duration of the tournament at all levels. It’s not just about alcohol – it’s readily available, if not affordable. Rather, it is about the right to the intoxication of freedom, which is restricted everywhere in Doha. Everyone moves in a tight safety corset that will soon be commonplace and not only restrict free movement. There is no way to break out of it. The artificial mood in the stadiums, which culminates early in Qatar’s purchased ultras, is only broken by the power of authenticity in a few games. Because there are hardly any Europeans there, it is primarily up to the fans from Morocco and those from South and Central America to fill the World Cup with life.

Other major events will follow

Major events will return to the region of infinite riches and infinite suffering. FIFA is already flirting with Saudi Arabia as co-host of the 2030 World Cup, and Doha’s infrastructure also calls for further events. The dream of the Olympic Games in Doha is far from over.

After the final whistle of the final, on the International Day of Migrants of all times and after 144 months since the tournament was awarded without any real progress in terms of human rights, “the best World Cup of all time” (FIFA boss Infantino) comes to an end. A World Cup for which an incredible amount of human suffering was sacrificed. It is possible that Qatar will initiate further reforms. It is possible that others will be scaled back now that the Western media entourage is leaving. No matter which way the desert state goes in the future, mentally traumatized migrant workers remain damaged. And deceased workers stay dead. Their families will continue to miss them.

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