A year on from Qatar, this is the real legacy of the 2022 World Cup
Lionel Messi may have taken off the bisht but he still carries the air of a man who has won the World Cup. Those who know him say he visibly changed after that night in Lusail almost a year ago, in a good way. It’s already been likened to Muhammad Ali after the Rumble in the Jungle. Messi has that unique air of contentment that comes with completing a lifelong ambition. That’s not something many people can really say. Fewer still can say they are world champions. That’s what Messi can do now. He doesn’t need to, though. He just has that air.
Whether the 22nd World Cup changed Qatar or Fifa is a much more complicated question, to go with a truth that is much more than uncomfortable as football approaches the first anniversary.
It didn’t really change that much for migrant workers in the country, despite the governing body’s appeals to the International Labour Organisation and cosmetic changes to Qatari law. Every human rights body from Amnesty to FairSquare describes it as a “wasted opportunity”, words fully justified by documentary evidence from various reports that abuses are “still continuing”.
A new Amnesty investigation to coincide with the anniversary details how workers still need permission to change jobs, something labourers interviewed say was even suggested by Qatari government officials. Employers still effectively control workers’ presence in the country, jeopardising their legal status and preventing them from changing jobs.
In the most problematic illustration of this, abusive employers still cancel the residence permits or falsely report employees as having “absconded” in response to workers filing complaints or asking to change jobs. Wage theft remains the most common form of exploitation, with pay still low.