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Volume 6 No. 212

International Football

A "damning Amnesty report has raised fresh fears about the exploitation of the migrant workers" building the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, amid "a rising toll of death, disease and misery," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. The report claims that some migrant workers "are victims of forced labour, a modern form of slavery, and treated appallingly by subcontractors employed by leading construction companies in a sector rife with abuse." The report, based on two recent investigations in Qatar and scores of interviews, found workers "living in squalid, overcrowded accommodation exposed to sewage and sometimes without running water." It found that many workers, "faced with mounting debts and unable to return home, have suffered 'severe psychological distress,' with some driven to the brink of suicide." The report added that discrimination "is common." One manager referred to workers as "the animals" (GUARDIAN, 11/17). Amnesty Int'l Secretary General Salil Shetty said, "Our findings indicate an alarming level of exploitation in the construction sector in Qatar. FIFA has a duty to send a strong public message that it will not tolerate human rights abuses on construction projects related to the World Cup." Shetty added, "FIFA has a duty to send a strong public message that it will not tolerate human rights abuses on construction projects related to the World Cup" (AP, 11/17).

THE REPORT: REUTERS' Brian Homewood reported Amnesty "is the latest organisation to focus on treatment of migrant workers in Qatar," following "similarly scathing reports" by the London Guardian newspaper and the Int'l Trade Union Confederation. Amnesty said that it "had carried out interviews with around 210 migrant workers in the construction industry during two visits to the country" in Oct. '12 and March '13. It "also held meetings with 22 companies involved in construction projects and met government representatives on more than a dozen occasions." The report said abuses included "non-payment of wages, harsh and dangerous working conditions, and shocking standards of accommodation" (REUTERS, 11/17).

THE BLAME GAME: In London, Ben Rumsby wrote the report "places most of the blame for the scandal at the feet of exploitative employers and the Qatari government, urging it to reform its draconian labour laws and carry out more effective monitoring of worker welfare in the country." But it also "hits out at Fifa and the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee" for their attitude to a “crisis” which caused World Cup Organizing Committee Secretary General Hassan Al Thawadi to state the World Cup will not be built upon “the blood of innocents.” Amnesty welcomed FIFA’s public recognition of the importance of the rights of migrant workers, but "criticised football’s world governing body for 'its repeated assertions that it is not responsible and cannot change things' and President Sepp Blatter’s claim that there was “plenty of time” before '22 to solve the problem. It claimed FIFA’s suggestion that its "main focus" was on the 2014 and 2018 World Cups "fails to recognise that abuses are happening already" (TELEGRAPH, 11/17).

UEFA President Michel Platini said Friday that there will be "no European football matches in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region until the situation there 'normalizes,'" according to R-SPORT. UEFA ruled in June that "last year's suspension on continental action anywhere in the group of seven southern provinces" should continue into '13-14 for "security reasons." Platini: "When the situation normalizes, we will re-examine our decision not to play there. Everything depends on security. We must protect all participants of football matches. If the situation doesn't change, we will not go there" (R-SPORT, 11/15). R-SPORT reported in a separate piece Platini said that he is "against punishing clubs for racist acts by their fans, even though his organization often does so." UEFA punished CSKA Moscow for "racism in the stands last month, although it has faced criticism because the fines levied are typically lower than for offenses such as illegal advertising." Platini said, "You can’t punish players, officials, clubs for something that they didn't do. You have to punish the spectators" (R-SPORT, 11/15).

FIFA has refused to recognize new Moroccan football federation (FRMF) President Fouzi Lekjaa and ordered new elections, but said that "next month's hosting of the World Club Cup will not be affected," according to REUTERS. Lekjaa was elected on Sunday following a marathon election to replace Ali Fassi Fihri, however FIFA said that the FRMF "had not fulfilled its duty to comply with FIFA directives." Morocco "will host the World Club Cup this year, using stadiums in Marrakech and Agadir, and will also hold the African Nations Cup" in '15. FIFA said, "The aforementioned decision will not have any effect on the organization of the FIFA Club World Cup that is due to take place in Morocco" from Dec. 11-21 (REUTERS, 11/15).

Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez will protest to FIFA "in the next few days regarding what Real Madrid considers abuses that players pay for during the season," according to José Félix Díaz of EL CONFIDENCIAL. Pérez wants a "system change, a rotation of the current competition system." Pérez, "along with several other club presidents, believes that national team games held during the season break the rhythm and increase the risk of injury for players, something that is not covered by a club's insurance." Real Madrid midfielder and German int'l Sami Khedira tore the ACL in his right knee during Germany's 1-1 draw in a friendly against Italy on Friday and "became the second Real Madrid player in less than a month to get injured while playing for a national team." Pérez is "not the only club president unhappy with the current system -- the top clubs feel threatened." FIFA and UEFA "know this and are planning a change to the format of the different competitions." Alternatives "are being considered, but there will not be a change" until at least '16. FIFA President Sepp Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini "want to reduce the number of friendlies, which would eliminate long trips" (EL CONFIDENCIAL, 11/17).     

One of the highest-profile issues to come out of the recent Spanish Football League (LFP) Assembly was the organization's plans to block the raiding of academies, "which has caused a so-called 'talent drain.'" LFP President Javier Tebas said, "We spoke about an issue that we're discussing with clubs and directors of football, which concerns academies and players under 16. We're trying to work out how to protect them and encourage clubs to keep nurturing these academies, because they are extremely important for the future" (MARCA, 11/16). ... Australian football player Mark Bresciano "has reportedly been banned by FIFA for four months" and fined $1.8M for an illegal club transfer. FIFA ruled that "the veteran Australian's transfer from a Qatar club" to the UAE was illegal (ESPN, 11/15).