Those projecting empty seats across Qatar while would be travelers protest the 2022 World Cup were dealt a dose of disappointment on Wednesday, with the Associated Press throwing a tub of cold water on those rightfully hot and bothered. According to the AP’s report, Qatar has been paying migrant workers to fill its sports arenas to create the pretense of a sports-mad country. Come 2022, and for roughly $8 per outing, those migrant workers may get paid to see soccer in the same settings their oppressed labor helped create.
Of course, that last part is speculation. Less speculative is the idea of buses full of basically indentured servants being taken to “volleyball, handball and” soccer games to make up the numbers. According to the AP, one such bus recently included “about 150 workers” to help give a FIVB volleyball tournament last month the appearance of popularity. “But migrants from Ghana, Kenya, Nepal and elsewhere, who work in Qatar as bus and taxi drivers for the state-owned transport company and for other employers, told the AP they were there for money, not volleyball.”
“It’s news to us,” a representative from the sports’ governing body told the AP. FIVB’s going to “seek clarification.”
The greatest part of this un-genius plan? It appears to be backfiring. Instead of helping to foster its sports culture, Qatar’s plan is turning the country’s most affluent off attending live events.
“A survey of 1,079 Qatar residents published this January by the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics suggested that paid fans may be turning Qataris off sport. The ministry said two-thirds of Qataris surveyed did not attend any football matches during the previous season and two-thirds of respondents cited “the spread of paid fans” as a “significant reason” keeping audiences away.”
Money’s gotten Qatar this far in the soccer world, be it through purchasing World Cups or by providing incentives for players of Sudanese, Senegalese, Algerian and French birth to wear the country’s colors. It’d be nice to see the roots of that evil surfacing in more than an obligatory FIFA investigation.
Once the workers were done attending games, their pay came out to about $1 per hour. But as the AP notes, for people who are “eating just once a day to save money for families back home,” it’s a huge bonus. Besides, a few hours in an arena with free Wi-Fi gives them time to reach out to family and friends. When they’re not wholeheartedly cheering on their news teams, of course.