”A world cup of slavery”. This is what one of Sweden’s best known football experts, Erik Niva, calls the 2022 Qatar World Cup. He does not believe there will be any improvement when Fifa changes president.
You’ve called the Qatar World Cup a world cup of slavery. What do you mean by that?
”I suppose it’s a harsh summary of the conditions that allow the Qatar World Cup to become a reality. All these new palatial stadiums have to be built so that the matches can be held in keeping with Qatar’s bid. They have to be built quickly and relatively cheaply. Further down the chain this has generated a slavery-like situation where guest workers are being used to make everything work out.”
Why is that?
”It’s to do with a trend in football that has been going on for a long time, with unreasonable demands for ever bigger events and stadiums. This whole process culminates in underpaid, uninsured workers losing their lives.”
What responsibility do you think Fifa has for the workers?
”Much more responsibility than they let on. They swear that these sorts of issues are none of their business, saying that football has nothing to do with politics. But it’s impossible to make the distinction.”
Do you think the election of a new Fifa president can influence workers’ conditions?
”On the whole, no. The presidential candidates are, after all, very much power men like Sepp Blatter. I don’t think much will change in the beginning.”
What should Fifa do?
”A complete rethink is needed about how major championships are awarded. And the requirements for the stadiums are completely unreasonable. New five-star stadiums have to be built by the dozen and the whole set of requirements for holding a World Cup now means no sensible, democratic state wants to touch it with a bargepole. Fifa doesn’t care at all about how the stadiums are built, how the infrastructure is built, as long as it’s ready on time.”
Should the Qatar World Cup be boycotted?
”I’m more in favour of reforming and revolutionising Fifa than stopping games from being played. But I think we have to be even more careful and diligent in monitoring the underlying mechanics.”
Could the scandals surrounding Fifa affect the workers’ situation?
”It may perhaps result in some degree of staging. But essentially I think the Qatar World Cup is already too close for change to be possible.”
Why do you think Qatar was awarded the Fifa World Cup?
”It’s a geopolitical power now and needs to renew its position in the world. It wants to play a bigger role on the world stage, and above all profile itself for the day the oil runs dry.”