Opinion | I’m boycotting the FIFA World Cup and you should too

Set to start on Nov. 20, the Qatar World Cup has been mired in human rights abuses.


Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY

Nov 16, 2022; Doha, QATAR; A giant soccer ball sits on the Corniche Waterfront ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Knupp, Opinions Contributor

I won’t be watching the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and you shouldn’t either.

Starting on Nov. 20, 32 nations will battle for world soccer glory, but they will be doing so on graves.

Qatar won the bid to host the World Cup by bribing FIFA officials back in 2010. Since then, over 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar, according to an April 2021 report from The Guardian, though it should be noted that not all of those workers were working on the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup.

The Qatari government claimed in a Dec. 2020 report that only 37 people died from 2014 and 2020 on World Cup stadium construction sites. Only three of those deaths have been work-related, according to the Qatari government.

However, according to the International Labor Organization, Qatar doesn’t consider deaths from heart attacks or respiratory failure to be work-related, even though both are common symptoms of heat stroke.

Given that temperatures in Qatar in July average 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s not a leap to assume heat stroke probably played a role in many of those deaths.

Even if it is true that only 37 people have died on stadium construction sites from 2014 to 2020, stadiums aren’t the only infrastructure being built for the 2022 World Cup.

Construction companies in Qatar are also building restaurants, bars, hotels, and airports to accommodate the tournament.

It’s also worth noting that it’s very possible these numbers are fabricated, given that the same report claims that only one worker died of COVID-19, while 1,226 workers contracted it.

A 2016 Amnesty International report details claims of wage theft and deception — all but six out of the 231 men interviewed by Amnesty International reported making less than originally promised.

Reports from The Guardian, Amnesty International, and ESPN provide first-hand accounts of employers revoking workers’ passports and not letting workers leave the country on top of wage theft.

Among these accounts are several from Nepalese workers being barred from traveling back to their home countries to check on their families after an earthquake happened there.

A 2013 video from The Guardian showed images of cramped sleeping quarters in which one room is shared by 12 to 14 workers, rancid bathrooms and kitchens in a labor camp on the outskirts of Qatar’s capital, Doha. The video stated that the camp had just two kitchens that were shared by 600 workers.

Denmark’s national team will be wearing toned-down uniforms to show their support for the workers. Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands all wore t-shirts during their March World Cup qualifiers with human rights messages written on them. The Australian national team recently put out a video condemning Qatar’s human rights abuses.

But that’s not enough. The messages give off a vibe of “I think it’s terrible what they’re doing to migrant workers, but I consider soccer to be more important.”

The only real way to make change would be to fully boycott the tournament.

If the 2022 World Cup kicks off and no one is there to watch it in person, and no one tunes in on TV, that means there will be huge monetary losses for FIFA, Qatar, Qatari construction companies, and World Cup sponsors, thereby keeping the blatant abuse of human rights this from happening again.

A boycott would make it clear to nations that they can’t make money off the backs of abused workers and show companies that they can’t make money by sponsoring such events.

If you truly care about human rights, boycott the tournament.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.