Qatar: The Other Story

We've all read recently about the FIFA debacle. The one about how FIFA has been turned upside down by scandal in that millions of dollars have been lost through the greed of some seedy folks.
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We've all read recently about the FIFA debacle. The one about how FIFA has been turned upside down by scandal in that millions of dollars have been lost through the greed of some seedy folks.

There's another part of the story whereby there is significant questioning concerning the little country of Qatar being awarded the World Cup for 2020. Around the story of Qatar is the mentioning of thousands of workers from countries such as Pakistan, India, Nepal and others being forced to work in inhuman conditions while rushing to finish the many stadiums needed to host the games.

I'm not sure you know much about Qatar, but it's a country so small, you could probably put it inside the state of Rhode Island.

I live in Florida and thought Florida was hot in the summer, but Qatar wins hands-down when it comes to sweltering heat, especially in the summer. So you can imagine what it's like for those thousands of, mostly men, who are there in Qatar simply to try to make money to send home to friends and relatives.
How do I know all of this? I've been to Qatar...twice. I've seen it all. But there was one story that needs telling that most people will never hear about.

Three years ago I was invited to be on a panel of speakers at an annual event that is called The Doha Goals Forum. Believe me, this is a big event with sports leaders from all over the world attending. The Qatar government sponsors the event and to show you the amount of funds spent for the event, there are 400 young people from all over the world who are personally invited and paid for .There are rulers of countries, people like former heavyweight champion George Foreman, Olympic champion Carl Lewis and even Oscar Pistorius, the blade runner, who have appeared in the past. The cost for all of this has to be in the millions.

My role was to speak about the power of sports in the lives of children around the world. Most important, was that we give all children the opportunity, and never deny children because of their ethnicity or economic status.

The event was held in a building that would equal any sports facility that I have seen around the world; all of it indoor to avoid the heat.

During a break I wandered around the huge indoor air conditioned facility to witness kids playing soccer on an indoor field big enough to support four teams playing simultaneously. It looked great and I was happy to see that the Qatar people cared enough to allow kids to come in and play in this magnificent facility.

I was wrong. Not every local kid was allowed. It was open to only those that had money. How do I know? Because as I sat there watching the kids play there were about ten workers taking a break a from cleaning the place. I sat down near them and at the right moment I said, "Are any of your kids out there playing?"

They looked at me as if I were some kind of world-class comedian trying my best to humor them .
When they finally sensed that I was serious they said, almost in unison, "No, sir."

They went on to say that the fields were only available to people who had money to pay for their kids to be in the soccer program. I then said, "So where do any of the kids who live in Qatar that don't have money play"?

Their response: "Nowhere."

I told the above story as I spoke that afternoon, at the risk that I would be thrown out of the building but more so that I would get a response from the attendees.

Did anybody seem to care? Nope. Business as usual. The haves and the have-nots, Qatar style.

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