Qatari migrant workers enjoy World Cup on the cheap – Digital Journal

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Migrant bricklayers take a break while working on a construction site on the Corniche in Doha during the World Cup – Copyright AFP –

Shafeeq Saqafi paid $3 for the Argentina jersey he proudly wore as he sat with 15,000 other migrant workers in a hidden corner of Doha to watch Lionel Messi’s team save their World Cup.

Messi’s goal in a 2-0 win over Mexico on Saturday night brought the largest crowd ever seen in Asian Town Stadium to their feet and Saqafi thumped his chest in delight.

Saqafi and his friends bristled at suggestions from the European media that they are “fake fans,” but admit to buying counterfeit team jerseys for $3 or less, instead of the $90 the official kit costs.

“I couldn’t afford to have the letters printed on the back, but the shirt was something I really wanted,” said the 32-year-old hotel worker who earns just over $400 a month and sends more than half to his family in Bangladesh.

Saqafi is one of the 2.5 million foreign workers who have been the foundation of Qatar’s economic miracle, helping to pump oil and gas, build its stadiums and World Cup infrastructure, and staff dozens of new hotels. that have been opened in the last five years.

Rights groups say the workers have suffered massive abuses.

Qatar responds by citing increased safety standards and wage protections in factories and outdoor workplaces, and reduced working hours in Qatar’s notoriously hot summer.

– Hindi pop and football –

The stadium, in the Asian Town shopping complex on the outskirts of Doha, has become a daily draw for thousands of the poorest workers who live in nearby dormitories far from Doha’s glitzy shopping malls and restaurants.

An Indian DJ pumps up the overwhelmingly male and South Asian crowd before each match with Hindi pop songs and Bollywood videos.

Many, like Saqafi, wear Argentina jerseys. For most, the fan zone on the cricket ground is the closest they will get to the World Cup. The legal minimum wage is 1,000 riyals (about $260), which many still earn.

A few thousand tickets for the 40 riyal ($10) World Cup went on sale and sold out quickly. The rest are too expensive for the average construction worker in Qatar.

Buying an official team jersey is also out of the question. So Saqafi and many of his friends bought one of the high-quality fakes sold in thrift stores.

Yaseen Gul, who has worked for a Doha power company for a decade, said she comes to the stadium “to have fun, cheaply.”

“Qatar is very tough. The work is hard. In summer it is very hot,” she said. “But my salary has improved and I will not go home.”

Shaqeel Mahmoud said that he could not afford to buy tickets for the match and had to leave the Argentina match before the end because he had to go to work.

A cup of hot milk tea at the stadium’s beverage stand costs $1, but many workers said it was too much and there were no lines. Hundreds line up at the FIFA Fan Festival 10 kilometers (six miles) away to pay $13.50 for a beer.

“There’s no pressure to buy anything, so I’m thankful for that,” Shaqeel said.

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