World Cup in Qatar: capitalism to the point of caricature

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
November 21, 2022

Capitalism has turned sport, and football in particular, into a big money business. Clubs, sponsors and even players make millions. Each global competition brings billions into play, which end up in the coffers of cement companies, sports gear manufacturers, television channels, advertisers, hotel chains, etc.

All this has been known for a long time. But the fact that the World Cup is being held in Qatar this year has taken this capitalist logic to new heights of crassness and absurdity.

Qatar was created by British imperialism. Its borders were established in the mid-1930s, after the first oil fields were discovered. They were drawn to ensure the control of Western oil companies over the region's hydrocarbons.

The keys to this very profitable well were then entrusted to the al-Thani clan, a dynasty still in power. Oil companies such as Total continue to profit from it and the princely family is now at the head of an investment fund worth more than 400 billion euros.

Awarding the World Cup hosting rights to Qatar was a guaranteed jackpot for FIFA and for all the capitalists looking for good deals. No wonder Sarkozy and Platini lobbied for the World Cup to be held in Qatar rather than the United States!

For the French bourgeoisie, of which Qatar is a major partner, it was even ideal. The deal between France and Qatar included the purchase of several Rafale aircraft manufactured by Dassault for over six billion euros.

But the deal has also offered golden opportunities to Vinci, Eiffage, Bouygues, Saint-Gobain, Accor and Thales. And it did not disappoint because Qatar has paid big bucks! The country is said to have spent 220 billion euros, when the World Cup in Russia only cost 14.

The emirate has built roads, a new city and seven magnificent stadiums out of the desert sands, all of which will probably go unused after the tournament. And since it does not have the hotel capacity to accommodate all the fans, it has arranged daily round-trip flights with Kuwait and Abu Dhabi.

At a time when world leaders are calling on people to make sacrifices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and when the world is sinking into war and climate crisis and some countries into famine, all this is absurd and revolting.

"It was necessary to give the Cup to the Arab world," said FIFA. What a joke! FIFA doesn't do anyone favours.

It has sold the Cup to a petro-monarchy where the needs and lifestyle of the 350,000 Qatari citizens are provided for by two million foreign workers from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

As for Qatar, it doesn't give a damn about the populations of the Arab world! For Emir al-Thani and his clan, Egyptians, Syrians, Iraqis and Sudanese are above all exploitation fodder. He also rules with an iron fist over the inhabitants of his own country, relying on a rigorous practice of Islam to oppress women and persecute homosexuals.

As always, it is the workers and the poorest among them who suffer the most ferocious dictatorship. In Qatar, the workers who have built this paradise for princes and the jet set are deprived of their rights. Their working conditions illustrate what wage slavery is, in the original sense of the word.

Indebted and threatened with eviction at the slightest protest, workers are forced to work in temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius, sometimes 12 hours a day, seven days a week, sometimes with rationed food and water. All this to earn 200 to 300 euros per month, that is if their boss doesn’t disappear into the desert when it’s time to pay the long-awaited salary!

According to an investigation by The Guardian, more than 6,500 workers have died in Qatar over the last ten years, while the country has only officially acknowledged three work-related deaths! Nepalese, Indian and Egyptian workers have been victims not only of a medieval labor law that chains the worker to his boss, but also of the rapacity of the capitalists of our country.

Football, the players and the fans have nothing to do with all these horrors. It’s the profits made by Vinci, Bouygues, Thales and Alstom that are red with the blood of the workers who died on these building sites. Capitalism “was born sweating blood and mud from all its pores”, wrote Karl Marx. The way this World Cup is organized shows how true this still is.

Nathalie Arthaud