US Soccer and Boycotting the 2022 World Cup

I love the World Cup. I went to all the games at RFK Stadium in 1994 and saw the best goal of the tournament by Saudi Arabia’s Saeed Al-Owairan.

As a fan, I was disappointed that the US wasn’t chosen to host the 2022 World Cup. It was ruefully funny when it became clear that FIFA hadn’t considered the slight problem of 120-degree summer temperatures in Qatar, which won the right to host. But those are trifling matters compared to a shocking report by The Guardian, alleging rampant “abuse and exploitation of migrant workers” who are building World Cup stadiums and infrastructure in Qatar.

Between June 4th and August 8th, 44 Nepalese workers died. According to the report, in the absurd heat, workers have been denied drinking water and their wages, and they’ve been prohibited from quitting their jobs and leaving the country. Some people have gone so far as to describe it as “slavery.” From The Guardian:

The investigation also reveals:

  • Evidence of forced labour on a huge World Cup infrastructure project.
  • Some Nepalese men have alleged that they have not been paid for months and have had their salaries retained to stop them running away.
  • Some workers on other sites say employers routinely confiscate passports and refuse to issue ID cards, in effect reducing them to the status of illegal aliens.
  • Some labourers say they have been denied access to free drinking water in the desert heat.
  • About 30 Nepalese sought refuge at their embassy in Doha to escape the brutal conditions of their employment.

The United States Soccer Federation has to take a leadership role and say that we as a country will not tolerate or be complicit in this. For American players to be involved, the World Cup cannot be built on a foundation of human rights violations.

Consider the alternative. 9 years from now, a team of American players takes the field at a sparkling new stadium in Qatar. The field is perfectly manicured, the stadium itself is an architectural marvel, and there are 50,000 fans wearing their team colors and singing their songs. But behind all the polish, there’s a dark secret: that that very stadium was built by people who were not paid for their work, were forced to live in abominable conditions, were denied drinking water, and were not allowed to go home to their families.

This is one of those moments where we can show what we stand for. I hope we step up.