World Cup 2022: in Qatar, final of the Arab Cup and maintenance of increasingly strong pressures

Who from Tunisia or Algeria will win the first Arab Cup organized since 2012? The fans will have the answer on Saturday evening, December 18, after the final which will take place in the Al Bayt stadium, inaugurated on November 30 at the very start of the competition. Located in Al-Khor, north of the capital Doha, it is one of the eight arenas where the matches of the 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar (November 21-December 18, 2022).

Since its kickoff two and a half weeks ago, this Arab Cup has served the small emirate of the Middle East as a dress rehearsal before the World Cup. “The event provides an excellent opportunity for participants and the public to experience the atmosphere in Qatar and the magnificent stadiums that will host the 2022 World Cup“, explained FIFA, organizer of this Arab Cup and the next World Cup.

Thirty-two matches will therefore have taken place during this Arab Cup and the first results seem convincing for Qatar: a beautiful opening ceremony, a great crowd, lawns in perfect condition, brand new stadiums that have Looks great … On the pitch, everything seems to be rolling. And to turn things up, FIFA has decided to play the final on December 18, one year to the day before the 2022 World Cup final.

December 18 is also symbolic for two other reasons. It is the national day of Qatar and to see this final take place on that day comes to dedicate the efforts of the small emirate in terms of “sport-power” to exist on the international scene. But it is also the international day of migrants. In Qatar, the latter represent 95% of the workforce, coming in particular from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

The construction of the Lusail stadium, which will host the 2022 World Cup final, in December 2019 (GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP)

It is precisely the fate of these migrant workers that provokes the ire of several human rights associations. Last February, the british daily The Guardian published a survey in which he maintained that 6,500 migrant workers had died in Qatar on infrastructure works (stadiums, hotels, roads, hospitals, etc.) planned for the 2022 World Cup. Figures denied by Qatar, which for its part does not identify only three fatal accidents since 2014.

One year to the day before the end of the 2022 World Cup, the pressure continues to mount on Qatar, even though the success of the Arab Cup foreshadows a great celebration during the 2022 World Cup. more numerous. On Wednesday 15 December, the headquarters of the French Football Federation was covered with a tarpaulin prepared by Amnesty International: “Thousands of dead in Qatar and the FFF still does not whistle“. All accompanied by the slogan:”Bring the Cup to your senses“, subtle reference to the title”Bring the cup home“, post-World 2018 musical success.

On the same day, Amnesty International jointly organized with the NGOs Human Rights Watch and FairSquare a video conference to denounce, once again, Qatar’s human rights abuses. “It has been eleven years since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar and four years since the emirate explained that it wanted to end the kafala (sponsorship system that puts workers under supervision, editor’s note) but the majority of migrant workers continue to be abused, without anyone being held responsible“, deplores Hiba Zayadin, researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Despite the voluntarism of Qatar, which has changed its laws since 2017, “the reality on the ground is that no progress has been made for the workers“, regret the NGOs.”Progress stagnates“, denounced Amnesty International in a 48-page report published on November 16. “At the World Cup next year, every fan who attends a match or every player who will be on the lawn will rub shoulders with these migrant workers, whose rights have been violated.“, souligne Hiba Zayadin.

In addition to the plight of migrant workers, the three NGOs denounce the treatment of women in the small emirate. Despite these abuses in terms of human rights, everything is orchestrated by Qatar so that all eyes are turned away, according to Nicholas McGeehan, researcher for FairSquare: “The Supreme Committee (the governing body overseeing preparations for the World Cup in Qatar), which is very important, is doing everything to distract from what is really going on in the country.

While FIFA is also targeted by NGOs, actions are increasing among civil society actors to challenge Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup. On November 26, Bayern Munich supporters in Germany – where the fringe of supporters opposed to the next World Cup are large – disrupted the club’s General Assembly to protest against the club’s Qatari sponsors.

In Norway, the Tromsø club recently played with a QR code jersey which, once scanned, links to a site which denounces the practices of Qatar. The Norwegian selection of star Erling Haaland wore a warm-up t-shirt last March that highlighted the violation of human rights by the small emirate. Despite these initiatives, 480 Norwegian clubs voted last June against a boycott of the World Cup in Qatar.

Sign that FIFA and the organizers of the next World Cup still have room. On Tuesday, they tried to defuse the subject, along with political institutions, at a human rights conference in Qatar. “From day one, we have been committed to ensuring that a legacy is left before the tournament and that this legacy continues beyond the tournament, especially on labor reform, but also on other topics.“, defended Hassan Al-Thawadi, responsible for the organization of the World Cup.

A statement from the boss of the next World Cup which will certainly not convince the NGOs, which plan to increase the pressure as the date of the start of the competition approaches. Qatar is preparing to experience a pivotal year 2022. What to spoil the party this Saturday, for the final of the Arab Cup? We still seem to be far from it.

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