Opinion: The World Cup is Over. But What About the Migrant Workers?

The international soccer tournament was supposed to prioritize worker welfare. But over 6,750 South Asians have died since Qatar won its bid in 2010.

Zahra Khan

December 20, 2022

Opinion: The World Cup is Over. But What About the Migrant Workers?
Migrant workers stand in the doorway of their shared bedroom at a workers’ camp in al-Khor, Qatar, on June 17, 2011. (Sam Tarling/Corbis via Getty Images)

Achraf Hakimi walked up to take a penalty against Spain that could win his home team, Morocco, a spot in the quarterfinals. Fox broadcaster Ian Darke reminded Americans watching at home that Hakimi was born in Madrid to a mother who was a cleaner and a father who was a street vendor in the Spanish capital. Spain wanted him to play for them, but he chose to play for his country of origin instead. At that moment, Hakimi gently chipped the ball straight down the middle, and into the goal to win the game. 

On Sunday, Hakimi’s Paris Saint-Germain teammate Kylian Mbappé, of Algerian and Cameroonian descent, scored all three of the goals in the World Cup final for France — the country he was born and raised in — before taking his team to a penalty shootout against Argentina.

This has been the immigrant’s World Cup — brought to life by players in between countries, competing in stadiums built on the backs of low-wage migrant workers. They go by many names, and work all kinds of jobs, but the immigrant belongs to a global community of people who leave their homes, hoping to survive and hopefully thrive. How fitting then that the 2022 FIFA World Cup ended this past Sunday on International Migrants day. And while many immigrant players will leave Qatar as heroes, millions of migrant laborers will remain in the country, still invisible. Several thousand won’t see their families again because they have died building the infrastructure for the World Cup.