John Oliver on Qatar: ‘No reason to believe Fifa will ever do the right thing’ | John Oliver


John Oliver minimize via the lofty rhetoric celebrating the begin of the World Cup in Qatar, a rustic with a report of human rights abuses internet hosting a match run by Fifa, a “cartel-like group of scumbags and assorted criminals who occasionally put on soccer matches”.

“Fifa has always been terrible”, the Last Week Tonight host stated on the eve of the World Cup’s first match, “which is what makes it a little hard to hear Fifa’s current president claim that their event is not just about sport, it’s a net positive for humanity.” That president, Gianni Infantino, stated the World Cup in Qatar will be “the one to bring the world together after some difficult times”.

“The truth is a lot more complicated than that”, Oliver famous, “which is not to say that I am not excited about the World Cup, because I am.” But the price of the match, internet hosting 1,000,000 in-person spectators in a rustic the dimension of Connecticut, has been staggering.

“Underneath the fun pageantry and David Beckham doing bad Anthony Bourdain cosplay is a much darker story,” stated Oliver, from the harassment of journalists to human rights abuses. First, the choice to host the match in Qatar, a desert nation with scorching summer season warmth, “wasn’t just a surprising choice”, stated Oliver. “It was logically inexplicable. It would be like if the Westminster dog show awarded the best in show title to a tortoise. Nothing against that tortoise, but not only should it not have won, it should’ve been automatically disqualified.”

After proposals that included an as-yet-uninvented remote-controlled cloud, Fifa in the end moved the match to November. There have lengthy been allegations that the group was bribed to award Qatar the match in 2010; three of the officers who voted for Qatar allegedly did so in change for $1m every. “I won’t say that Qatar definitely got the World Cup through bribery, but I won’t say that they didn’t, and I will say that they did,” stated Oliver.

Hosting the World Cup required not solely constructing a number of new stadiums, however a brand new airport, roads, metro system and greater than 100 lodges. The Qatari authorities has spent an estimated $300bn on new infrastructure for the World Cup, “and look, they can afford that. They have a lot of Money thanks to their huge oil and natural gas reserves,” stated Oliver. “What they don’t have a lot of, though, is Qataris.”

The nation has about 380,000 nationals, in a rustic of roughly 3 million individuals, principally foreigners and migrant employees. “And it’s migrant workers who perform most of the manual labor there. And those laborers are the ones who’ve had to build all the new infrastructure for this tournament.”

Those employees, primarily from India, Nepal and Bangladesh, had been recruited via a stringent kafala system of pressured labor – employees couldn’t swap jobs or go away the nation with out the specific permission of their employer, typically had their passports seized and labored for hours in 125F warmth. “All the new stadiums and infrastructure were built through modern-day slavery,” stated Oliver. “So we should probably introduce a new collective noun to refer to this group of stadiums – a gaggle of geese, a pod of whales, an atrocity of stadiums.

“There’s something pretty fucked up about arguing ‘it’s too hot for peak athletes to be outside for 90 minutes, but you know what? It’s completely fine for people to build stadiums in that heat for hours a day and for months on end.’”

Living situations for employees had been abysmal – sprawling, filthy labor camps filled with males, typically devoid of showers with damaged sewage techniques. And the working situations had been harmful – a Guardian investigation from February 2021 discovered that 6,500 employees died in the 10 years after Qatar was awarded the World Cup. That determine contains all migrant employee deaths, not essentially these occurring on World Cup initiatives; the Qatari authorities’s most popular demise rely is 37 employees, solely three of which had been “work-related”.

“If that number seems suspiciously low to you, it’s because it very much is,” stated Oliver. The most popular rely was restricted to the small handful of labor websites that had been underneath the highest stage of scrutiny, and excluded a whole bunch of different tournament-related initiatives.

Both Qatar and Fifa have claimed credit score for reforms to the kafala system in the run-up to the match, regardless of zero mentions of human rights or demand for labor reforms in Fifa’s analysis of Qatar’s bid. “Think of it like this,” stated Oliver: “If the country had made no changes to its kafala system in the past few years and instead had passed the ‘Doubling Down on Slave Labor Act of 2019’ you know what would have happened? The World Cup would’ve still kicked off in Qatar today.

“When Fifa awarded Qatar the World Cup, there was only one way those stadiums were getting built, and there was only one group who were going to do it, and they gave them the tournament anyway.”

Oliver then turned to present crackdowns on human rights, significantly LGBTQ+ rights, in Qatar, which the match is probably going to distract from. “The Qatari government is engaging in some truly horrendous behavior and we can’t just gloss over that and uncritically put it in the spotlight,” he stated. “It’s an authoritarian regime, not Mel fucking Gibson.

“Ultimately, it’s not the players who are responsible for this mess, it’s Fifa,” he stated. “They put the World Cup in Qatar and everything that’s happened since then has been a complete disgrace.”

Oliver didn’t encourage individuals to boycott the World Cup – he’d be watching and cheering for England, he admitted – however urged viewers to “try and make sure a line is drawn here” after the last whistle in December by remembering the price of this match.

“There is no reason to believe that Fifa will ever do the right thing,” he concluded. “But I would love it if it could, for just once in its shitty history, find a way to hold itself to the lofty ideals that it has the gall to profess.”

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