FIFA’s labor issues need to be addressed

Jake Schwebach

“Yo, Gatorade me, b****,” an overworked and under-appreciated Jesse Pinkman said. He collapsed onto a chair in the windowless, hot and buzzing meth lab.

Recognize the scene? It’s from Breaking Bad’s episode “Fly.” The series illustrates how deadly labor is a business apparatus. Breaking Bad looks like an exaggeration of the real world, but in reality it’s the other way around.


I’m not just talking about illegal business, either. I’m talking about soccer.

The Guardian reports that 1.4 million migrant workers in Qatar are currently building World Cup 2022 infrastructure. The Qatari government itself reported 1,000 “migrant deaths on its soil: 964 from Nepal, India and Bangladesh in 2012 and 2013,” of which, “246 died from ‘sudden cardiac death.'”

That is 1,000 labor deaths in one year. There are eight years until the World Cup reaches Qatar. By 2022, IUTC  (the International Union Trade Commission) projects more than 4,000 migrant worker deaths will contribute to the graves (excuse me, stadiums) the games will be played on.

FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, is Heisenberg. He is in charge of the empire. He knows the chemistry. He has connections. To imitate Pacino, “(he) knows people who really know how to hurt.” He has no sympathy for death.

Qatar is Jesse Pinkman. Qatar gets the shiny but fleeting things. He gets the stadiums, the advertisers and the attention. FIFA pretends to care about Qatar. FIFA makes Qatar believe in himself. FIFA uses Qatar because it is easy to manipulate. Qatar is willing to use illegal labor.

We are the drug addicts. The spectacle is a narcotic. The games are stimulants. The aftermath, empty beer bottles and abandoned streets, are depressants. We absorb all of this with neglect for the truth; the World Cup hurts more than it helps.

The entire Qatar labor scandal culminated with FIFA President Sepp Blatter‘s statement that “yes, it was a mistake of course, but one makes lots of mistakes in life.” That was it. Fin. FIFA has a reputation. He is “the one who knocks.” That’s it, what more can we do?

Yuvraj Ghimire’s is among the migrant workers who died in Qatar. His younger brother, Krishna Upadhyaya, is adamant that “if Qatar wants to organise the World Cup, it should respect the human rights of people. If they don’t want to respect human rights, they should not hold these events.”

Alexandra Wrage is the leader of an anti-corruption activist group, Trace. Once a member of FIFA, Wrage resigned in April 2013 over frustration at what she described as, “FIFA’s resistance to reform.” Trace wants more transparency within FIFA.

We can learn something from Wrage and Ghimire. But you have to admit, it feels kind of futile. Even writing this feels futile. You don’t tell Heisenberg what to do.


One voice won’t do anything. Neither will 1,000. However, 10 million might. Heisenberg’s hubris is his downfall. We must attack FIFA’s ego. The easiest way to do that is hash tags and status updates. The Ice Bucket Challenge proved how far hashtag activism can go.

Let’s knock on FIFA’s door. Go hash tag berserk on FIFA.

And then post that picture of your Starbucks latte, #fave.

Collegian Colunmist Jake Schwebach can be reached at or on Twitter at @JakeSchwebach