Tag Archives: FIFA

The Workers Cup

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A Film about the Labour Camps of Qatar: building the 2022 FIFA World Cup

Last night we hosted another advance screening of The Workers Cup film at the Zoo Palast Cinema in Berlin. Here are my own personal thoughts on why everyone should see this movie. Think only about the plight of migrant workers in Qatar, the vast majority of the population, and then sprinkle in joy of football and then you have a compelling and very human narrative. The current blockade against Qatar by some of its Arab neighbours, catalysed in part by one Donald Trump, just adds to the poignancy. If things get tough in Qatar over the months ahead, it is unlikely to be the 300,000 Qataris that suffer first given they are the richest population, per capita, in the world, but rather the migrant workers who have come from some of the poorest countries.

The real-life film focuses on an annual tournament organised by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy for the 2022 World Cup in which construction companies can field teams of workers (who work building the stadiums during the hot day, but train and play at night). It focuses on one team in particular, and some key protagonists from Africa and South Asia. Kenneth is a 21-year old Ghanian with dreams of becoming a professional player and is working in Qatar with the hope that one day he will play in the stadiums he is building. The lonely guy is Paul from Kenya, trying to date another Kenyan in Qatar but embarrassed to admit he is “in the camps” and finding it hard to get into Doha on his day off. Umesh is the older guy, the father figure, wanting to build a home for his wife and children back in India. Padam from Nepal has a angry wife at home also feeling very isolated by the dislocation of having an absent husband for years on end.

The film brings us into their lives, and how they train and compete in the Workers Cup, pitting their wits against other teams of workers. I will not tell you how far they get in the tournament, that would be too much of a spoiler, but their passion for the beautiful game humanises them. Unlike nearly any documentary on migrant workers you might watch, this film is not about victims, they are active agents trying to fulfil their own destinies. They have been granted one freedom, one privilege: some time off from the work in the blistering sun to train and play. But this is perhaps the film’s greatest revelation: it is because of this freedom that the workers find out that they really have no freedoms at all. I do not want to draw too many lines to other films about slavery and forced labour in other times and places – but it has this element in common: patronage and charity only highlights the absence of fundamental rights.

Fundamentally, the film is about human dignity – and asks us to reflect on our own hopes and desires. In a powerful speech near the end of the film, the workers are reminded that although life in Qatar is heavily colour-coded, in economics if not in terms of any apartheid law, it is the “barriers we create inside ourselves” that really matters. Whilst Qatar is an extreme example of this, the same factors exist in most places, not least in London as the victims of the Grenfell Tower remind us – poor largely migrant Londoners burning to death in ones of its richest boroughs.

Thank you to Ramzy Haddad, Rosie Garthwaite and Adam Sobel for bringing us the film. Go watch it as soon as you can.

Men. Just say no, politely…

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No more male-only panels or boards

Gender inequality is returning in new forms, and of course in most places it never went away.

A recent debate in the UK has been about whether a football player, who is a convicted rapist, should be allowed to return to his former football club after serving his prison term.  For some, this has reaffirmed a view that once the letter of the law has been followed, there is no further ethical issue. Curious. Many commentators, mostly male but not exclusively, cannot accept that such a football player has lost his social licence for a high-profile job which provides a role model to many young men (and women). He could not conceivably run in politics and therefore nor should he run for any other position in public life where his behaviour influences others.  This should not have to be an issue of legislation, but one of good governance and sound decision-making by the Boards of sporting bodies and football clubs.

You think I am over-reacting? Then ask yourself why so few British footballers are openly gay, when there must be hundreds who are. Its a different issue but the answer is the same. Culture plays a very significant role in hiding human rights abuse, whether it be in society, business or sport (don’t get me started on this week’s FIFA report).

The revelations about how so many British celebrities secretly behaved in the 1970s and 1980s have not yet served as enough of a wake up call. Now there are even allegations of murders in political cover-ups perhaps the biggest revelations are yet to come.

Even more pernicious are the hateful tweets that female BBC journalists received this week after robustly questioning a British comedian who tells rape jokes. Even some of the liberal left make light of sexual violence, defending the right of Julian Assange not to face justice in Sweden for charges of alleged sexual assault. Incredible. This is not to mention the everyday sexual violence that women face all around the world and the bravery of women who stand up to this.

If you are a man, like me (or unlike me it doesn’t matter), and wonder what you can do about the current state of affairs, here is one small example – inspired by our Scandinavian and Australian brothers. The next time you are invited to speak at an event and you the notice that the panel contains not a single representative of a non-male gender (and gender is more than a binary), then do not accept to speak. Don’t say “no” in a horrible way, but instead suggest the very many well-qualified non-male alternatives to yourself and try to persuade the organizers to invite them instead. I know this is tough advice for any young male trying to get into public life, but believe me a male-dominated public life is not worth the effort (have you ever been to a golf club AGM?).

It might not surprise you that Norway and Sweden have led the way with the “Equalisters” campaigners and the “Men Say No thanks” campaign #tackanej (in Sweden) and #takknei (in Norway). You might be more surprised that Australian men are also getting active. What about the rest of us?

Much less seems to be happening in my own country, the UK, but am pleased to see that the NGO Article 36 raised the issue of gender discrimination in policy making.  In May 2014 at the meeting of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) at the United Nations, 17 experts were invited to speak and all 17 were men. Nothing more macho than lethal weapons it would seem.

And we all know that only a handful of FTSE-100 or Fortune-500 companies have female CEOs, or Board Chairs. But how many of us have really tried to do anything about it? The change starts with each of us in the day to day decisions we each make.

Of course it is more than gender – it is fundamentally about power. When sitting at the annual stakeholder meeting of a large European multinational I couldn’t help noticing that of the 300 people in the room, 95% were men. But equally as noticeable was that 99% were white, and no one removed their suit jackets (all uniformly black, the jackets that is) until the “chairman” of the Board had done so – oh yes, the chairman was a man. As power gradients steepen, diversity decreases.

You will meet many women working in CSR roles in business, but far fewer in risk management or strategic roles. You might think that you have gender and ethnic diversity sitting on a panel in London, Bogota or Delhi, only to find out at closer inspection that you are sitting exclusively with the elite 1%. Class or Caste discrimination is amongst the most invisible and pernicious but anyone with a working class background will know what I mean here.

So why this diatribe you might ask? Is this just Morrison being all politically correct all of a sudden.  Well I guess we all have the power to say “No thanks”. We might not sit in positions of power, on the boards of multinationals or in the inner sanctums of FIFA, but we can all say “no thanks” to many things and lets start with gender inequality.