On outskirts of Doha, laborers watch World Cup they built

Nov 25, 2022, 4:49 PM | Updated: Nov 26, 2022, 6:53 am
Laborers cheer at a fan festival at the Asian Town cricket stadium in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Nov. 25,...

Laborers cheer at a fan festival at the Asian Town cricket stadium in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. Far from the luxury hotels and sprawling new stadiums emblematic of Doha during the World Cup, scores of soccer-mad South Asian workers poured into a converted cricket stadium in the city's desert outskirts to enjoy the tournament they helped create. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

(AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

              Laborers watch a World Cup match at a fan festival at the Asian Town cricket stadium in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. Far from the luxury hotels and sprawling new stadiums emblematic of Doha during the World Cup, scores of soccer-mad South Asian workers poured into a converted cricket stadium in the city's desert outskirts to enjoy the tournament they helped create. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
            
              Laborers cheer at a fan festival at the Asian Town cricket stadium in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. Far from the luxury hotels and sprawling new stadiums emblematic of Doha during the World Cup, scores of soccer-mad South Asian workers poured into a converted cricket stadium in the city's desert outskirts to enjoy the tournament they helped create. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
            
              Laborers cheer at a fan festival at the Asian Town cricket stadium in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. Far from the luxury hotels and sprawling new stadiums emblematic of Doha during the World Cup, scores of soccer-mad South Asian workers poured into a converted cricket stadium in the city's desert outskirts to enjoy the tournament they helped create. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
            
              Laborers watch a performance at a fan festival at the Asian Town cricket stadium in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. Far from the luxury hotels and sprawling new stadiums emblematic of Doha during the World Cup, scores of soccer-mad South Asian workers poured into a converted cricket stadium in the city's desert outskirts to enjoy the tournament they helped create. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
            
              MC Lincia Rosario dances in front of laborers at a fan festival at the Asian Town cricket stadium in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. Far from the luxury hotels and sprawling new stadiums emblematic of Doha during the World Cup, scores of soccer-mad South Asian workers poured into a converted cricket stadium in the city's desert outskirts to enjoy the tournament they helped create. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
            
              Laborers cheer at a fan festival at the Asian Town cricket stadium in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. Far from the luxury hotels and sprawling new stadiums emblematic of Doha during the World Cup, scores of soccer-mad South Asian workers poured into a converted cricket stadium in the city's desert outskirts to enjoy the tournament they helped create. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Far from Doha’s luxury hotels and sprawling new World Cup stadiums, scores of South Asian workers poured into a cricket ground in the city’s sandy outskirts to enjoy the tournament they helped create.

Unlike the official FIFA fan zone near Doha’s pristine corniche, this one has no $14 beer or foreign tourists. There are few food options beyond deep-fried Indian snacks, scant soccer jerseys in the crowd and even fewer women.

Instead, the grassy pitch in Asian Town, a neighborhood of labor camps, is packed with migrant workers from some of the world’s poorest countries. They power Qatar, one of the world’s richest, and helped accomplish its multi-billion-dollar stadium-building effort.

Their treatment has been the controversial backstory of the 2022 World Cup, ever since Qatar won the bid to host the soccer championship. They can face low wages, inhospitable housing and long hours, often in the scorching heat.

But on Friday night as the Netherlands played Ecuador, the bleachers of the cricket stadium heaved with workers reveling on their one day off of the week.

The lucky ones scored a small number of World Cup match tickets that went on sale for just 40 riyals ($10) — a special cheaper ticket category for Qatar residents. But for those who can’t afford to go to gleaming stadiums, the giant screens in Asian Town have become a key glimpse into the tournament that has reshaped the tiny emirate.

“Who can afford to go? I keep 400 riyals ($109) a month in my pocket,” said Anmol Singh, an electrician, who sends the rest of his $600 salary to his parents and grandparents in Bihar, eastern India. “I work to give it all to them.”

Even if meager by Western standards, the salaries of migrant workers in Qatar and across the oil-rich sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf often exceed what they could make back home and serve as lifelines for their families in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Workers in the fan zone who spoke to an Associated Press journalist on Friday said they coveted their jobs in the country, which has strict laws on speech. The yearslong boycott of Qatar by four Arab nations also stoked nationalism among the migrant workforce that makes up some 85% of the country’s population.

Kaplana Pahadi, a 21-year-old cleaner from Nepal, strolled through the crowded cricket stadium with three co-workers she called “my family.”

Decked out in a maroon Qatar jersey, scarf and cap, she said she moved to the energy-rich emirate over four years ago to pay medical fees for her mother, who developed heart problems after her father’s death. “She’s always sick,” she said. “I want to help her.”

At half-time, the floodlit stadium became a riot of music and dance. A celebrity Indian emcee whipped up the crowds as Hindi pop blared.

Some men hoisted themselves up on the shoulders of their friends. Others jumped up and down with excitement. Most wore jeans and T-shirts, or cream shalwar kameez — a knee-length shirt with a pair of loose-fitting trousers common in South Asia.

Hundreds took out their phones to film the reverie, smiles spreading as women in LED-lit white dresses traipsed onstage.

It was a stark respite from the daily grind.

“These are people from companies doing hard work,” said Imtiaz Malik, a 28-year-old IT worker from Pakistan, gesturing to the crowds of men. “But any kind of work is good.”

He said he misses his family back in Lahore, Pakistan, and wishes he could hear their voices more often. Despite the difficulties, he said, Qatar has become his home, too.

“This country is becoming better,” he said.

The glaring spotlight of the World Cup has compelled Qatar to overhaul its labor system. The country scrapped the kafala system that tied workers’ visas to their jobs and set a minimum wage of 1,000 riyals ($275) a month, among other changes. Still, rights groups argue more needs to be done. Workers can face delayed wages and rack up debt paying exorbitant recruitment fees to land their jobs.

Imran Khan, 28, said many young men in his hometown of Kolkata, India, dream of working in Qatar. He left his parents and brothers behind to search for work in hospitality during the World Cup. But he has yet to find a job.

The competition is fierce and work harder to come by now that the tournament is underway, he said. In the meantime, he spends his days watching matches on the big screens at the cricket stadium next to the mall.

The fan zone allows Khan and legions of other migrant workers to enjoy the World Cup atmosphere just a short walk from their dormitories. It also means they’re not taking the bus into downtown Doha, which is now filled with foreign fans watching games and celebrating.

“I can’t explain the excitement,” Khan said. “It’s unreal.”

___

Follow Isabel DeBre on Twitter at www.twitter.com/isabeldebre.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE-- In this Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018 photo Hans-Georg Maassen, then head of the German Federal ...
Associated Press

German opposition party seeks to expel ex-intel agency chief

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s main opposition party is trying to get a rid of a member and former head of the country’s domestic intelligence agency after he complained about what he said was a move toward “eliminatory racism against whites.” The leadership of the center-right Christian Democratic Union unanimously approved a resolution on Monday calling […]
1 day ago
The painting "A Boating Party" by French painter Gustave Caillebotte is displayed at the Orsay Muse...
Associated Press

France buys new masterpiece for Orsay museum with LVMH gift

PARIS (AP) — France has acquired a stunning Impressionist masterpiece for its national collection of art treasures, with a donation from luxury goods giant LVMH paying the 43 million euros (nearly $47 million) for “A Boating Party” by 19th-century French artist Gustave Caillebotte. The oil on canvas shows an oarsman in a top hat rowing […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Austrian police find family illegally living in wine cellar

BERLIN (AP) — Austrian police said Monday they arrested a 54-year-old man after he attacked two social workers with pepper spray when they found him living illegally in a private wine cellar in northeastern Austria with a woman and six young children. Police in the Austrian province of Lower Austria were still trying to determine […]
1 day ago
FILE - Signs stand outside Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va., on Jan. 25, 2023. The s...
Associated Press

School where 6-year-old shot his teacher set to reopen

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — Stepped-up security and a new school administrator will be present as students return to the Virginia elementary school where a 6-year-old boy shot his teacher weeks ago. Richneck Elementary School in Newport News was set to reopen Monday, more than three weeks after the Jan. 6 shooting. Police have said […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Kimberly Palmer: How to safely use payment apps

As a frequent PayPal user, I wasn’t surprised to see a payment request on the app pop up. But when I read it, I knew something was wrong. In the message, a stranger asked me to send them $699 in order to get a “refund.” While I instantly recognized the request as a scam, I […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Pope taps Chicago native in Peru to lead bishops’ office

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Monday named an American-born missionary in Peru, Bishop Robert Francis Prevost, to take over the Vatican’s powerful bishops’ office from the retiring Canadian who has recently been accused of sexual misconduct. Prevost, a Chicago native and former superior of his Augustinian order who began ministering in Peru in […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
On outskirts of Doha, laborers watch World Cup they built