Soccer players from a number of European countries are showing their support for the rights of migrant workers in Qatar during their 2022 World Cup qualifier matches, after a Guardian report revealed that at least 6,500 migrant workers had died in Qatar since the country won the right to host the 2022 World Cup a decade ago.
Norway’s national soccer team, whose players wore shirts that read “Human rights – on and off the pitch. Norway, Germany, next?” at their match against Gibraltar on Wednesday Mar. 24.
On Friday Mar. 26, Germany’s national football team followed suit, lining up on the field to spell out the word “HUMAN RIGHTS” with the letters on the front of their shirts before their qualifier match against Iceland at Duisburg.
The Netherlands staged a similar act on Saturday Mar. 27, wearing shirts with the message “Football supports change” ahead of their qualifying match against Latvia.
“We have the World Cup coming up and there will be discussions about it,” Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka said, the BBC reported. “We wanted to show we are not ignoring that. We have a large reach and we can use it to set an example for the values we want to stand for.”
Players are prohibited from using equipment that bears “any political, religious or personal slogans“, according to the Guardian, but FIFA said it would not be penalizing the players following Norway’s protest.
“FIFA believes in the freedom of speech, and in the power of football as a force for good,” a spokesperson said on Thursday. “No disciplinary proceedings in relation to this matter will be opened by FIFA.”
Since it won the bid to host the tournament, set to begin in November next year, Qatar has embarked on an “unprecedented building program,” building seven new stadiums, a new airport, roads, public transportations, hotels, and a new city to host the World Cup final, according to the Guardian report.
According to the report, this means that an average of 12 migrant workers have died each week since December 2010 and the total death toll may be significantly higher. Many of them are likely to have died while working on the World Cup infrastructure projects, the report said.
“We deeply regret all of these tragedies and investigated each incident to ensure lessons were learned,” the Qatari government said in a statement. “We have always maintained transparency around this issue and dispute inaccurate claims around the number of workers who have died on our projects.”
It said that the “mortality rate among these communities is within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population,” according to the BBC.
Human rights group Amnesty International has called on FIFA to “use its voice to urge Qatar to urgently implement and enforce existing reforms, and to reject proposals to strip workers of their newly gained rights.”
In response, the Qatar government said it is “committed to working closely with its international partners, including Amnesty International, to protect all workers and ensure the new laws are effectively implemented and enforced,” according to the BBC.