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What's the Human Cost of the World Cup?

Posted: 27/01/2014 15:11

We all know entertainment comes at a hefty price - but where the world's favourite sport is concerned, that price may now be too much to bear.

For decades, governments of all shapes and sizes have bent over backwards to accommodate the globe's top sporting event. You can hardly blame them. With every TV on the planet tuned in, the Fifa World Cup is a chance for regimes to demonstrate feats of astounding infrastructural ingenuity - building works of engineering that far surpass the darkest depths of our imaginations. Yet in this race to produce the ground-breaking, state-of-the-art facilities that our well-paid sports personalities have come to expect, nations are literally working people to death.

Throughout the last six months, millions of Brazilians have taken to the streets in order to protest their government's decision to prioritise the billion-dollar needs of FIFA and its single-serving stadiums over the welfare of everyday people. Officials are already running ridiculously over the tournament's projected $13billion budget, and are apparently more than happy to ignore the government's criminal underspend on basic health and education for those most in need. Meanwhile, poor working conditions and vast organisational oversights have led to an influx of distressed workers that have yet to see their first paycheck. Several months ago, two of those labourers ended up dead.

Yet the sheer volume of Brazil's catastrophically poor handling of what should be its finest hour has been dwarfed by the human rights calamity being casually swept under the rug in Qatar.

Over the course of the last year, 185 underpaid migrant workers died whilst labouring to construct over-the-top stadiums in Doha - where Qatar is set to host Fifa's 2022 World Cup. There, illiterate expats from across Southeast Asia are quite literally being pushed to the breaking point, working day in and day out in one of the globe's most unforgiving climates. Thousands of these impoverished workers are hauled from site to site like cattle, and crammed into over-crowded accommodation that's often bereft of running water.

They may be the lucky ones.

Too little has been said of the thousands of female Nepalese and Filipino workers who were lured to the oil-rich state of Qatar under the false pretence of a more positive work environment. Most have been greeted with unbearable living conditions, little-to-no payment and extreme psychological and physical abuse. Sexual assaults are unbelievably commonplace, and those women brave enough to report it to the authorities end up in prison as a direct result. In fact, it's been said that at least five female rape victims are tossed behind bars each and every month for having unwanted sex outside of wedlock - often being led away from rickety hospital beds in chains.

Now, it's bad enough that any government should be willing to turn a blind eye to the destruction of countless lives just to cash in on 30 days' worth of sport. Yet insult will inevitably be added to injury when clueless Qatari officials realise their World Cup bid won't bring them an ounce of profit.

After hosting the last World Cup, the South African government hardly got back 10% of its unsustainable £3billion investment. Tourist numbers turned out to be just half of what organisers had anticipated - and the country's economy has since stumbled into a state of total disrepair. It appears Brazil will fare even worse after it hosts this year's tournament. Meanwhile, FIFA officials are now raking in over $1billion per year.

This needs to stop.

Shameless profiteering and delusions of grandeur have tarnished Fifa's charitable reputation and bloodied the legacy of what was once a beautiful game. Consequently, it's time to implement some serious sanctions and act against these blatant human rights violations before more lives are lost. No game is worth this - and if the developed world continues to sit idly by as out-of-touch governments are pressured into working impoverished foreigners to death, it's hard to say what kind of future is in store for the world's favourite sport.

 

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