Germany stars have worn t-shirts championing the human rights of migrant workers ahead of next year’s World Cup in Qatar, reacting to reports that as many as 6,500 have died since the Gulf State was awarded the tournament in 2010.
Each of the starting players in Germany’s victory over Iceland on Thursday wore a letter on their shirts to spell out the term “human rights“, doing so a day after a similar expression of support from Norway, who wore t-shirts saying “human rights on and off the pitch” ahead of their match with Gibraltar on Wednesday.
The 2022 World Cup, which is set to begin on November 21 next year, is the first iteration of the tournament to be held in the Middle East but has been the subject of considerable backlash due to reports of the mistreatment of migrant workers, as well as concerns about the efficacy of hosting the tournament in a region many consider ill-prepared to host a global tournament of this magnitude.
“We have the World Cup coming up and there will be discussions about it,” said Germany’s Leon Goretzka, scorer of the first goal in his side’s 3-0 win.
Norway players wore t-shirts before their opening 2022 World Cup qualifier against Gibraltar in protest of Qatar’s human rights record pic.twitter.com/sfbNCUI5F1
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) March 24, 2021
“We wanted to show we are not ignoring that. We have a large reach and we can use it to set an example for the values we want to stand for.”
There had been speculation in the media that the Norwegian team might be censured for their outspoken protest, but a representative of FIFA swiftly ruled out action, saying that they “believe in the freedom of speech, and in the power of football as a force for good.”
“There have been wars with fewer deaths,” said one football fan in reaction on social media, while another claimed that it is “classic European hypocrisy” to highlight the issue now when many have known about Qatar’s human rights record for quite some time.
6,500 workers died, I mean sometimes there are wars with less deaths Respect for Germany and Norway, everyone should join them and boycott the World Cup in QatarWe hear football > lifeShouldn’t it be then life > money for FIFA?
— DaveHuncho🇭🇷 (@longlivedave14) March 25, 2021
Ahhh! Classic European hypocrisy! We have known about Qatar and its horrible labor laws (lack thereof) for years. Why pipe up now? The European nations, just like the US with Saudi, love to blackmail the Arabs into paying more corrupt money to “look the other way” 🥸
— MQA (@MQA_LFC) March 26, 2021
We should move the world up to Iceland at this point
— Jack (@jacksofree) March 25, 2021
Another even suggested moving the World Cup to Iceland, of all places.
The Guardian reported last month that as many as 6,500 workers are understood to have lost their lives while preparing the necessary infrastructure required to host the World Cup.
That number was challenged by the Qatar organizing committee, who said that they “deeply regret all of these tragedies and investigated each incident to ensure lessons were learned.”
“We have always maintained transparency around this issue and dispute inaccurate claims around the number of workers who have died on our projects,” they added, describing the mortality rate as “within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population.”
Qatar beat the likes of the United States, Australia, South Korea and Japan to win hosting rights, though the process has been plagued by allegations of corruption.
The organizing committee have overseen the construction of seven new stadiums for the tournament, which was moved from its traditional summer slot to November to help combat the extreme heat in Qatar.
This week, Amnesty International also petitioned FIFA to implore Qatar to honor labour reforms intended to safeguard workers’ rights, adding that “urgent and concrete action” was required by world football’s governing body.