Pressure continues on Qatar over slavery

The Guardian has followed up last week’s exposé about the appalling treatment of migrant labourers working on Qatar 2022 construction projects, by reporting on the growing international pressure coming to bear on the Gulf state.

Ahead of FIFA’s two-day Exco meeting to discuss the Qatar World Cup, victims’ groups, the United Nations and politicians have all urged football’s governing body to act to halt the death toll.

Representatives of the families of migrant workers already killed and injured on building sites called on FIFA to award the tournament to another country, unless the Doha can guarantee worker safety.

Ramesh Badal, a lawyer in Kathmandu who represents Nepalese workers victimised in Qatar, demanded that FIFA place a deadline on Qatar by which it must prevent deaths and labour abuses.

“If FIFA applies pressure on Qatar now, then they will definitely change,” he said. “This is now in the hands of FIFA.”

The British sports minister, Robertson, told the Guardian: “I absolutely believe sports events should be spread around the world but one of the important consequences of doing that is that those countries that receive them should comply with the basic minimum standards of care.”

The United Nations International Labour Organisation (ILO) called on FIFA to use the influence of the world’s most popular sport to demand improvements in labour practices in Qatar.

“FIFA’s power of persuasion is very big, bigger than the ILO, and they should use their influence,” said Nada al-Nashif, the ILO director for the Arab states. “If they do that we can have a safe and happy lead-up to 2022. A lot hangs in the balance. We mustn’t just make a few declarations and move on.”

One Nepalese worker, Bhupendra Malla Thakuri, told the Guardian he was hospitalised for three months after a truck crushed his leg and he was paid nothing for all that time, was left without adequate medical support and was forced to take his employer to court to even afford a plane ticket home.

“When I was discharged … the company only paid me for the 20-odd days I had worked that month but nothing more,” he said. “They didn’t give me my salary. They didn’t give me anything. It was a very critical situation. I was injured and my leg had become septic.”

He added: “The failure to pay workers regularly is traumatising some of them.”

It is worth putting this shocking treatment of the workforce into some kind of economic context. Qatar is officially the wealthiest country in the world per capita. Approximately 14% of households are dollar millionaires. How, you may be wondering does it manage to sustain such wealth across its population? Well, you won’t be too surprised to learn that it relies heavily on foreign labor to grow its economy, to the extent that migrant workers comprise 94% of the workforce.

Qatar’s per capita GDP at purchasing power parity (PPP) was $106,000 in 2012. Luxembourg came a distant second with nearly $80,000 and Singapore third with per capita income of about $61,000. This is a seriously wealthy country, one which does not have national occupational health standards, and workplace injuries are the third highest cause of accidental deaths.

FIFA, Sepp Blatter is fond of telling us, is a force for good in the world. Now, he has the opportunity to prove it.

World Cup will be played in Qatar

A FIFA spokesman has moved to quell growing calls for the World Cup to be moved away from Qatar, by insisting there is “no doubt” the 2022 World Cup will be played in the Gulf State.

FIFA’s executive committee began a two-day meeting in Zurich on Thursday, and while discussions are expected to focus on whether the 2022 finals should be played in the summer or the winter, some have questioned whether it should go ahead in the country at all. The fresh controversy over Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers involved in constructing facilities have fuelled talk of the finals being switched.

However, FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio has moved to nip that suggestion in the bud before it gathers momentum.

“No doubt,” he told reporters when asked if it would be played in Qatar. “What is open to question is if we play in winter, and if so is it November, December, January, I don’t know…

“But there is no doubt we will play in Qatar.”

The alternative scarcely bears thinking about, not least by FIFA’s accountants who will have been waking up in a cold sweat in recent weeks, as they contemplated the huge legal costs and compensation claims the organisation would face, should the decision to relocate the finals be taken.

Joe Hart gets vote of confidence

England coach Roy Hodgson has thrown down a challenge to Manchester’s Joe Hart. On current form, it’s a safe bet that the error-prone goalkeeper will drop it.

Hart came in for criticism for his performance against Bayern Munich when he was beaten twice by near post shots. Indeed, Hodgson’s assistant, Gary Neville, working as a TV pundit on that match, was candid in his assessment of Hart’s performance.

“You have to say Joe Hart’s got to do better again at that near post (for the third),” said Neville. “That’s twice he’s been beaten there tonight. He’ll be disappointed again.”

Hart was included in England’s squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland and although there have been calls for him to be dropped from the national team, Hodgson has assured the hapless keeper that he remains his number one choice.

“I have no doubt Joe will come through this and put one bad game behind him,” Hodgson said.

“I am not blind to the situation, I do realise it is not a good moment for Joe.”

“He is a proud man and a very good goalkeeper and I am sure when he is criticised he is unhappy.

“I still believe in Joe. I believe he is the right man for the job and I don’t believe he will let England down.”

Hart’s patchy form, not just on Wednesday night, but throughout the season thus far, does bring to mind something David Platt said earlier in the season.

Platt, who worked under former City manager Roberto Mancini, revealed that the club had planned to replace Joe with Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic this summer.

The former City assistant manager reportedly told Al Jazeera: “If Mancini and I were still at Man City this year Joe Hart wouldn’t be there. We made a decision to sign Asmir Begovic.”

FA tube map looks familiar

The Football Association and London Underground have teamed up to create a reworked Tube map to celebrate their joint 150th anniversaries.

All 367 Tube, Docklands Light Railway and Overground stations have been named after footballers and officials.

Each of the 14 lines also holds a special significance – the Northern Line, for instance, represents famous goalkeepers, while the Central Line features prolific goalscorers.

It’s a clever piece of work, worthy of praise, although I’d have been more impressed if it hadn’t borne a stunning resemblance to this map published last week by the Press Association.

The PA’s MatchStory team have used their historical player database to create an infographic of the careers of many of London’s most famous footballers and the clubs they represented.

What sets this map apart from the FA’s version is that rather than simply list players on a line, the MatchStory team created a Tube line for each team, filled each station with a footballer who had played for that team and most impressively of all, represented those stations that connect two or more lines with players who had played for those particular clubs.

For instance, Clive Allen, the only footballer to have represented six London clubs, sits at Kings Cross St. Pancras, the only station serving six lines.

It really is an impressive piece of design.

Goal of the day

A curling free-kick from Jens Hegeler which dips viciously at the last minute, gives Bayer Leverkusen a last minute win over Real Sociedad.

Quote of the day

“When you buy me, you are buying a Ferrari. If you drive a Ferrari you put premium fuel in the tank, you drive onto the motorway and you floor the accelerator. Guardiola filled up with diesel and went for a spin in the countryside. If that’s what he wanted, he should have bought himself a Fiat from the start.”

In a highly entertaining interview with Der SpiegelZlatan Ibrahimovic tells Pep Guaridola where he went wrong.

Lazio captain Stefano Mauri has match fixing ban increased

Lazio captain Stefano Mauri has had his ban for failing to report match fixing increased to nine months after losing an appeal against the original six-month suspension.

In addition to the increased ban, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) also confirmed Lazio’s appeal against a 40,000 euro fine – issued in August for their objective liability in the case – had been turned down, and as a result, had been increased to  50,000 euros.

“The CGF…rejects the appeals of the footballer Stefano Mauri and of Lazio football club,” it said.

The player’s legal team, who described the ruling as “not only unjust but incomprehensible”, have 10 days to contest the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Mauri, 33, had initially been banned for six months by the football federation for not disclosing details about match-fixing in Lazio’s game against Lecce in May 2011.

The midfielder was one of eight players accused of sporting fraud relating to the Lecce match and a game against Genoa, both of which ended in 4-2 wins to the Rome side.

The ruling means that Mauri’s season is effectively over, with the ban keeping him out until at least May 2. His contract with the Serie A club expires at the end of the season.