Inside Qatar’s ‘different’ fan zone: a night watching football with Qatar’s migrant workers | World Cup 2022

It has the large display screen, the pumping music and the Fifa branding, however that is a fan zone with a distinction. There aren’t any visiting supporters, no girls, no group colours and definitely no beer. The clue is within the venue: a cricket stadium on the sting of Doha. Inside, hundreds of principally South Asian low-wage laborers fill the stands or sit cross-legged on the grassy outfield.

It is a world away from the polished face of Doha that the majority followers will see. The stadium fan zone is inside Asian Town, a buying and leisure complicated purpose-built for Qatar’s migrant workers about half-hour by automobile from town middle. An unlimited expanse of warehouses, workshops and lodging blocks stretches out for miles on one facet, housing a whole lot of hundreds of workers, typically in grim, crowded dorms.

On a wall close to the doorway to the fan zone, a banner in Arabic, English and Hindi reads: “Thanks to your contributions for delivering one of the best Fifa World Cup ever.”

The entrance to the fan zone for migrant workers in Doha, Qatar. Photograph: Pete Pattison

Many right here most likely performed a half in constructing the stadiums and infrastructure for the match, however gratitude has its limits. While some match tickets went on sale for Qatar residents for simply 40 rials (£9), nobody the Guardian spoke to had managed to get one. Any that have been accessible have been far too costly for workers who earn as little as £225 a month.

Without a match ticket, they’re unable to register for a Hayya card, which is required to enter the primary fan zones in Doha. Even if they may, the environment friendly and low-cost Metro doesn’t attain this a part of town, forcing workers to take dearer alternate options.

The fan zone, and Asian Town itself, spotlight the parallel lives that many migrant workers inhabit. Critics say it entrenches divisions, the unstated message being: you possibly can have your eating places, retailers and fan zone, so long as you do not come to ours.

In the migrant worker fan zone in Doha, Qatar, people watch the Spain v Costa Rica match at night on a big screen.
People watch the Spain v Costa Rica match within the migrant employee fan zone. Photograph: Pete Pattison

As the match between Spain and Costa Rica kicks off, Dilip Kumar Mandal from Nepal seems to be thrilled. “I come each night. I just like the setting,” he says. Asked which group he’s supporting, he pauses and says, “The crimson one.”

“I’d prefer to be in a stadium, however I’ve no cash. Whatever I earn, I’ve to ship dwelling for my youngsters’s schooling,” he provides.

Mandal, a mason, is simply blissful to be there. Before the World Cup started, 350 of his workmates have been ordered dwelling, as his firm, like many others, wound down its work on directions from the federal government.

As Spain scores their first aim, he punches the air. “Yes! I knew they’d rating,” he says, his face glowing crimson within the mild of the enormous display screen.

Sitting close by, Stephen* from Ghana works on the airport, transferring inflight meals to the planes. It’s his break day, however throughout the week, “All I do is figure, sleep, work, sleep, work, sleep,” he says. Like Dilip, he couldn’t afford a match ticket, however in contrast to him, he speaks about football as fluently because the Spanish play it. As one other aim slides in, he enthuses about Ghana’s possibilities: “I simply hope I can get off work to look at them,” he says.

As half-time approaches, a whole lot surge in the direction of the stage, and are quickly rewarded, not by one other aim, however by an MC and her 4 feminine dancers. She offers a shoutout to, “My African buddies”, earlier than reeling off the opposite nations that make up the majority of Qatar’s migrant workforce: India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Close up images of visitors to the migrant workers fan zone on the edge of Doha, Qatar, during an evening World Cup match.
Some workers are blissful to be in Qatar for the World Cup having seen coworkers despatched dwelling pre-tournament as corporations wound down their operations. Photograph: Pete Pattison

There aren’t any group colours or flags on show. With the exception of Ghana, none of those nations certified for the World Cup and so selections about who to help seem like decided by a favourite participant or the colour of a shirt.

In the stands, Mohammed Malik from Bangladesh says he comes to look at the matches day-after-day. He has nothing higher to do. “My firm stopped sending us to work as a result of we won’t entry our office throughout the World Cup. They’ve stopped paying us too,” says the 42-year-old carpenter.

Yam Kumar Rajbanshi, a forklift operator, is one other common within the fan zone. “I come each night. I really like football greater than cricket. Brazil will win,” he says confidently. Rajbanshi, from Nepal, mentioned a ticket for a match value an excessive amount of – half his month-to-month wage – however he didn’t appear to care. “It’s higher to look at right here!”

Migrant workers watch Qatar v Ecuador on a big screen from the cricket ground fan zone on the edge of Doha.
Migrant workers watch Qatar v Ecuador from the cricket floor fan zone on the sting of Doha. Photograph: Marko Đurica/Reuters

As Spain strolled to a 7-0 win, the workers who helped make it attainable, saunter again to their dorms, a band of south Indian drummers despatched them on their manner.

* title modified to guard the person’s id

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