Does sport addle the brain?

mmghosh's picture

I really don't get it.  


Let us consider any modern collective human activity - if more than 20 presumably fit young men performing physical labour die every month,  (die, that is, not be disabled or be otherwise unable to carry on) - would we be able to suggest that this was a normal state of affairs and get away with it?

Ali bin Sumaikh al-Marri, the head of Qatar government-affiliated National Human Rights Committee, told the news agency on Tuesday: "Indians make up the largest community in Qatar... twice the number of Qatari nationals.

About 500,000 Indians live in Qatar, which is experiencing a constrution boom staffed primarily by young men from South Asian countries.

"If we look at the numbers of Qataris who died ... of natural causes ... over the past two years, we see that numbers of deaths among the Indian community are normal."

We now know that over 800 workers from 2 countries alone have died in the past 2 years alone in the construction lagers in Qatar.

Official figures confirmed by the Indian embassy in Doha reveal that 237 Indians working in Qatar died in 2012 and 241 in 2013. A further 24 Indians have died in January 2014.

These come after the Guardian revealed last month that 185 Nepalese workers had died in Qatar in 2013, taking the total from that country to at least 382 over two years.

As in African slavery, the nexus of the Qatar slave market runs deep within our societies - from our villages, where contractors scour workers from the weakest sections, to the marketeers and traffickers, to the contractors, and ultimately the paymasters, and finally the organisers, advertisers and the sport-watching/paying public.  And yes, this is a global happening.  The FIFA World Cup is the most watched and followed single event on Planet Earth.  At the rate of 500 deaths per year, the next 8 years could end up with thousands of dead workers.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has warned that up to 4,000 workers may die before a ball is kicked in 2022 without meaningful reform of the kafala system, which ties workers to their employers, and stringent control of the myriad construction companies and subcontractors involved.

The ITUC, which has campaigned consistently for better rights for migrant workers across the Gulf, has called the publication of the charter a sham because it does not deal with structural problems created by the kafala system.

Not that we are bothered, naturally.  No news organisation or media group from our side, has, so far, bothered to investigate this story.  The only reason we know about this is because Right To Information legislation forced the hand of the Ministry of External Affairs - by AFP.

The Indian embassy in Doha revealed this information in response to a Right to Information request that was filed by AFP.


The Indian embassy has not provided details regarding the causes or the locations of the deaths. Neither did it reveal its correspondence with the government in New Delhi regarding the overall condition of Indian nationals in the Gulf country.

Many workers arrive in Qatar already heavily in debt, having paid huge sums to middle men to secure contracts in the fast growing Gulf state. 

We have seen and condemned military invasions on fake pretexts.  How can a leisure activity with an enormous death toll not attract the same degree of media attention?

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I watch the world cup, and I'm seriously considering


a total boycott for 2022. There has got to be some way to pressure Gulf states to treating their "guest workers", not to mention their women and their infidel populations, like human beings. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Since Qatar disrespects the political rights and...

Bird Dog's picture

...civil liberties and press freedoms of its own citizens (link), why would they care about the welfare of immigrant laborers?


"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Personally, I don't follow soccer

Bird Dog's picture

It's up to the ones who really care about the sport.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009



My consumption of sports content is so low it couldn't be lower. I don't even have cable TV. That's how much I care about sports. Not proud of that or anything, but, being an outsider, I've observed how unbelievably commercialized sports have become over the decades. This makes it even less appealing to me, but people seem not to notice.


This particular problem would require movement principally in India, I would think. Why it is not happening, I have no idea. I suppose if the mainstream media coverage in India is lacking, awareness might not be too high. It needs to be a national scandal. Another guess: construction job safety in India is probably not that good, and would naturally be highlighted by this story. And who wants that?

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Of course we should raise the issue

mmghosh's picture

at all levels.  


But MA, people are going to work in construction for a project that is a world flagship event - surely there should be an expectation not to die in the process.

The Corruption Problem


FIFA is a corrupt organization if there ever was one. If their decision to hold the cup in an oven like Qatar, which has no soccer tradition to speak of, doesn't tip you off to that, I don't know what will. Joseph Batter, the President, has been running it as a fiefdom since 1998. His path to power was paved by his Senior Vice President, Julio Grondona, who has been at the post since 1997. Mysteriously, these guys keep getting reelected and have survived allegations of corruption on multiple occasions. They have also stopped term limits and age limits from being implemented.


If you are waiting for them to care about this, you better find a comfortable place to sit, and get a good book while you are at it, or two, possibly starting with War and Peace.



This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

I'm boycotting all aspects of the tournament


because of this. They'll not get one  cent from me and no promotional materials or products from sponsors will be bought. Most people don't care though. Gay rights is the cause du jour.

Good for you


No one has the time or energy to even approach being a perfect consumer, but leisure activities especially seem like one area in which to exercise a little social conscience.


I've avidly watched the last 3 world cups but not this one. I turned off American football this year too.

Romario considers that FIFA is screwing Brazil in 2014

mmghosh's picture

Initially, Brazilian officials said no public money would be used on stadium construction. Now, some estimates show as much as 6.4 billion reais of public money ($2.9 billion) will be spent on stadium construction. The total bill to stage the tournament could be 30 billion reais ($13.8 billion), a figure Romário says leaves him sick.

“You see hospitals with no beds,” he said. “You see hospitals with people on the floor. You see schools that don’t have lunch for the kids. You see schools with no air-conditioning, where kids are going to school in 45 degrees Celsius,” or 113 degrees Fahrenheit. He continued: “You see buildings and schools with no accessibility for people who are handicapped. If you spend 30 percent less on the stadiums, they’d be able to improve the other things that actually matter.”

This Is The Same Romario That Evaded Taxes in Brazil?


He wasn't convicted because, well, he's Romario. Half a million would pay for an air conditioner or two. Talk is cheap.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.