Migrant workers aim to stay in Qatar far beyond World Cup final

DOHA — Senegal’s loss to England on Sunday saw Africa’s hopes of lifting the trophy in Qatar recede even further but the migrant workers watching the game at a specially-built fan zone were still hoping for the biggest prize of all — work beyond the World Cup.

Senegal’s 3-0 defeat at the Al Bayt Stadium means Morocco are the continent’s only sporting representatives remaining in the tournament but in Asian Town, about 60km away, some African fans were already looking beyond the final.

“The ones who came just for the World Cup will definitely go back after the World Cup, but I still have my future here because I still have work to do,” Ugandan Wambaka Isaac told Reuters.

“We’ll go doing cleaning work, offices, everywhere (there’s) a lot of work, and of course the building keeps on going,” he added.

Proudly wearing the shirt of his national team, Mr. Isaac was one of thousands of migrant workers who made their way to the fan zone after sundown to watch Sunday’s last-16 tie between France and Poland before England and Senegal took centre stage.

Qatar has come in for intense criticism from human rights groups about the treatment of its migrant workers, who together with other foreigners make up a majority of the population.

“It’s complicated,” said a young traffic marshal from Kenya, who declined to give his name, when asked whether or not he would be able to stay on after the final.

“I worked in construction on the Lusail Stadium, the Al Thumama (stadium). I worked for a contractor, so you go wherever they send you. We’re marshals today, next week we might be in construction again,” he explained.

“We worked in the summer when it was very hot, long days, very hot. I was very tired all the time.”

For Rahim, a ride-share driver from Bangladesh, his three-and-a-half years in Qatar have been tough but there is no work in his home village so he feels he has no choice but to stay on.

“I work every day, seven days a week. First I have to pay a company for the car, it’s not mine. Then I have to pay for my food and my rent, and what is left I send to my family,” Mr. Rahim said.

“During the pandemic there was no work so we lived on nothing. I’m trying to save up to go home; I haven’t seen my family in three-and-a-half years (but) if I go home there is no work so I have to have even more money.”

Mr. Rahim said he would like to bring his wife and daughter to live with him in Qatar but that he did not make enough money to be able to do so, so they remained in Bangladesh.

The FIFA fan zone in Asian Town, close to where many of the migrant workers have their living quarters, is one of the few public places in Doha showing World Cup games on big outdoor screens.

Most evenings the men come out to sit on the grass or in the bleachers at the cricket stadium, where the fan zone has been built, to watch but with an early start in the morning many head home to bed before the final whistle.

Many of the workers are dependent on their employers to be allowed to stay in Qatar and the goal is to ensure that they can stay in a job.

Jonathan, another Ugandan, is not really a fan of his job as a mechanic and would prefer to get an education, but he is aiming to be here long after the final.

“I’m going to stay until my contract finishes,” he said. — Reuters