A migrant worker at the construction site for the al-Rayyan stadium.
Workers from some of the world’s poorest countries are being paid a pittance to deliver the football dream of the world’s wealthiest per capita state
by David Conn in Qatar. Photographs by Tom Jenkins
Wed 21 Nov 2018
The men employed on building the 40,000-seat al-Rayyan football stadium were having their lunch, in the model accommodation camp of the “supreme committee” organising the 2022 World Cup, when I talked with them about their lives as migrant workers in the wealthiest country on earth. They had come from Ghana, where they said adverts about construction jobs in Qatar were broadcast on the radio, and about 300 of them had taken the opportunity. All four had paid agents, an exploitation that is officially outlawed but is endemic in the recruitment of millions of people from poorer countries to work all over the oil and gas-rich Gulf.
“The agent said to me: ‘Qatar is the richest country in the world; you can Google it,’” one man told me. “He said we would earn a ‘huge salary’. But when we came here, we found it was the opposite.”
Al-Rayyan is one of seven dazzling stadiums being built around the Qatari capital, Doha, in addition to the reconfiguring of the sole pre-existing World Cup venue, Khalifa International, which was completed last year. The total cost is between $8bn and $10bn, according to the supreme committee’s general secretary, Hassan al-Thawadi. Representatives of the supreme committee and their contractors walked us on a tour of al-Rayyan, being built to Fifa’s highest specifications. In heat and glare, 10 men from India, Nepal and Bangladesh, the most common countries of origin for Qatar’s migrant workers, were neatly cementing square vents beneath every seat, in time for a tournament due to begin in exactly four years’ time – on 21 November 2022.