Hello and happy Sunday. There was no shortage of news this week. As we said in the Wednesday edition of The Morning Dispatch, “What a week yesterday was.” We narrowly avoided an international crisis after two people in Poland were killed by a missile that struck Polish territory: Early reports indicated it was Russian but Poland and NATO later said that it was likely fired by Ukraine in response to a barrage of Russian attacks. Congressional Republicans chose their leaders for the upcoming term, nominating Kevin McCarthy to be speaker and retaining Mitch McConnell as Senate minority leader. But there was plenty of intrigue along the way. And there was more controversy swirling around Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter than I can keep track of, much less summarize.
But hey, it’s the weekend. A great time to kick back, relax, and watch some football. Or futbol, if that’s your thing. If you’re not a sports fan, the biggest news you might have heard about the World Cup—which starts today—is that the Qatari government decided at the last minute not to allow alcohol sales at matches. That’s certainly a big headache for World Cup sponsor AB InBev and a disappointment for anyone who wanted a crisp, cool Budweiser while watching soccer in 120 degree weather. But it’s hardly the only problem with Qatar hosting one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events.
The decision by FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup, was met with derision and scrutiny way back in 2010 when it was announced. As a practical matter, Qatar is a tiny country that then lacked the necessary infrastructure—stadiums, hotels, roads, even a big enough airport—to stage such an event. But even more important, the emirate has a terrible human rights record regarding freedom of expression, the legal system, and the rights of women and LGBT individuals. And then there is the migrant labor situation. Foreigners who move to Qatar to work often have their passports confiscated, so they can’t leave. They become essentially forced labor, unable to do anything about wages that were lower than promised and sometimes delayed. (This Amnesty International report has a lot of gruesome details.)
Without that migrant labor, Qatar would not have been able to build the stadiums and other facilities it needed to pull off the tournament. And so it was especially galling (but not particularly surprising) to read about FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s press conference on the eve of the tournament. “Europe could do as Qatar did,” in regards to migrant labor, he said. “Create some channels, some legal channels, where a number of those workers could come to Europe. Low revenues. But give them some work, some future, some hope.”