“Death is a part of life”: World Cup CEO brushes off migrant worker’s death
The World Cup’s dark cloud continues to loom as reports emerge that a Filipino worker died while performing repairs at a World Cup training base.
The death of a migrant worker at the World Cup is being investigated by the Qatari government. The Athletic reported that the man was Filipino, in his early forties, and called Alex. World Cup chief executive Nasser Al Khater responded by saying, “death is a natural part of life”.
Circumstances surrounding migrant worker’s death
Alex was working to repair lights in a parking lot of a five-star resort which was being used as a World Cup training base for the Saudi Arabia squad during the group stage before their elimination. Fellow workers, who remain anonymous to protect their jobs, said Alex slipped and fell headfirst off a ramp and onto concrete while walking alongside a forklift. A medical helicopter arrived, but he could not be saved.
Because the accident occurred on a public road within the resort, Alex’s death is being investigated by the government rather than the organizers of the World Cup, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy.
According to multiple anonymous sources at the site, Alex was not wearing a safety harness nor was he accompanied by a third worker, which would normally be protocol. The staff were not officially informed of Alex’s death, nor was it publicly announced, leading to much speculation among the workers.
“The incident is being investigated by the Qatari authorities,” said a Qatari government official. “If the investigation concludes that safety protocols were not followed, the company will be subject to legal action and severe financial penalties. Compensation is paid through the Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund when a worker has been injured or passed away due to a work-related incident, or when an employer is unable to pay salaries. More than $350million has been paid out through the fund this year. The rate of work-related accidents has consistently declined in Qatar since strict health and safety standards were introduced and enforcement has been stepped up through regular on-site inspections.”
Ongoing concerns over migrant deaths at the World Cup
Unfortunately, Alex’s death is one of several that have occurred in the construction and maintenance of the World Cup facilities in Qatar. Long before the tournament began, there has been scrutiny over the conditions migrant workers were subject to.
Conflicting reports over the number of deaths have caused even further confusion. FIFA president Gianni Infantino said earlier that only three migrant workers died in the construction of the eight stadiums, but Nicholas McGeehan of FairSquare, a human rights organization, called that a “wilful attempt to mislead”.
The Qatari official responsible for the delivery of the World Cup said the number of World-Cup related deaths was between 400 and 500. Yet Nepal’s labor ministry said 2,100 of its citizens have died in Qatar since 2010.
World Cup chief executive brushes off the death of Filipino worker
World Cup chief executive Nasser Al Khater spoke to the media about the death of a migrant worker, seeming more annoyed than sympathetic.
“So we’re in the FIFA Masters and we’re in the middle of a World Cup and we have a successful World Cup, and this is something you want to talk about right now,” said Al Khater. “I mean, death is a natural part of life, whether it’s at work, whether it’s in your sleep.”
“Of course, a worker died. Our condolensces go to his family,” he continued. “However, you know, I mean, it’s strange that this is something that you wanted to focus on as your first question.”
FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura expressed equal annoyance at the questions surrounding Alex’s death.
“We’ve already elaborated long interventions on what we are doing with Qatar,” said Samoura. “I don’t think that’s appropriate when people are coming here to learn things, that we are talking about things that we’ve already discussed months and months and months and time and time ago.”
Al Khater said that the deaths of construction workers in Qatar is proportionate to those in other countries and that people are not considering that when discussing the deaths that have occurred in Qatar. He then said that all the claims surrounding the World Cup-related deaths were false.
“This worker’s death has been a big subject during the World Cup,” he said. “Everything that has been said and everything that has been reflected about workers’ deaths here has been absolutely false.”
“This theme, this negativity around the World Cup, has been something that we’ve been faced with unfortunately. We’re a bit disappointed that the journalists have been exacerbating this false narrative.”