Infantino’s jetsetting contrasts grimly with migrant worker’s Fifa case | Marina Hyde

A $5,000 legal challenge over exploitation of workers building for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar pales next to the value of private flights accepted by Fifa’s president

In the grim scheme of things, it is the modesty of the sum that gets you. With the formal backing of the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation, a Bangladeshi man named Nadim Sharaful Alam is to sue Fifa for its alleged complicity in the mistreatment of those migrant workers in Qatar who are charged with building its World Cup venues and infrastructure. (Suggested tournament slogan: “Believe The Mirage™”.)

In what amounts to a test case, Alam is threatening to sue world football’s governing body via the Swiss courts unless Fifa settles with him. According to the legal argument presented in the writ of summons to Fifa, the governing body “has violated applicable legal standards under Swiss law protecting migrant workers from forced labour and other forms of exploitation”. For “the hardships that he endured” while Building The Dream™, Alam is asking for the equivalent of $5,000. For material damages compensation, just under the same sum again.

So what does 10 grand buy you in Alam’s world? His case is that in 2014, the then 29-year-old paid the equivalent of $4,000 “on account” to a recruiter who led him to understand that a construction firm had sponsored him and he was to be employed as an unskilled labourer. Under the less rosy realities of the country’s forced-labour kafala system, Alam’s passport was taken from him and he was forced to work 18-hour days for nearly a year and a half. During what we’ll sarcastically call his downtime, he was confined to a World Cup workers’ camp, where he was naturally required to pay for his meals. In a cute and doubtless entirely coincidental instance of timing, he was fired before he had “repaid” his recruitment fee, whereupon he was deported penniless back to Bangladesh. He had mortgaged his land back home to pay the initial instalment to the recruiter, and is now unable to pay the debt.

As I say, that little jolly consumed 17 backbreaking and cruelly fruitless months of Alam’s existence. In contrast, let us consider the figures attached to a mere four days – four days! – in the life of Gianni Infantino, the Solomon Grundy of a Fifa president who was appointed on a Monday and embroiled in an ethics investigation by the Tuesday, before being cleared on the Wednesday. I paraphrase only slightly. Still, what does 10 grand buy you in the world of the chap who will undoubtedly bat away Alam’s request for compensation, pour encourager les autres?

Let us examine a single document in the now-settled ethics case against the Fifa president, concerning his use of private jets. According to this letter to the ethics committee, despite Fifa having booked him commercial flights between Geneva, Moscow, Doha, and Zurich over four days in April, Infantino rejected these in favour of accepting private jet flights paid for by Russia and Qatar. “The total value of the private jet invitations are in a range of at least approx $115,000 to $150,000,” the letter states, “depending on aircraft and ferry-flights, even more.” Needless to say, this does not include standard Fifa expenses such as hotel rooms, cars, dinners and other sundries. Unlike Alam, for instance, I imagine the Fifa president likes his Doha water bottled, rather than dispensed by a desert standpipe.

Ah well. There are always two different World Cups. When Fifa bigwigs blather on about any tournament, you can always predict exactly which version of it is going to turn up. Either the World Cup pretty much has the power to heal the planet and is an incredibly transformative thing – which is why you increasingly have to award it to non-democracies. Or it is only a game, and really can’t be held accountable for whatever it is you’ve discovered is being done in its name, even if it profits you obscenely. I don’t want to go out on a limb here, but which version do we imagine Infantino falls back on when he tells Alam and his modest plea to do one?

Lockered out

Like all women, I am shocked by the idea that either Donald Trump or Nigel Farage has been inside a “locker room” inside the past two decades – or even since school. Indeed, each time I consider these chaps’ assured mention of the “locker room”, I find my mind wandering to the inevitable. Which is (but of course): what sport would Nigel and Donald have been playing just before the sexual-assault-reminiscences warmdown?

Is there anything more preposterous than the notion of Trump playing even a bit of pitch and putt with little Barron, before losing interest and offloading it to the help? The idea of The Donald playing any form of sport is almost more bonkers than the idea of him being leader of the free world.

I am reminded of an oblique remark made by his own devoted former butler, shortly after he’d shown a reporter the sensationally bad portrait of his boss in costume cricket whites in the library bar of his Floridian estate. To wit: “Mr Trump rarely appears in bathing trunks.”

If I really stretch my imagination, I can just about picture both Nigel and Donald playing racketball incredibly angrily and atrociously for around three minutes, Farage in black office socks with white plimsolls, and Trump with those mid-calf efforts and trainers with a wide heel flare recommended by the American Orthotics Association.

But really, two less credible denizens of a locker room I can scarcely contemplate. I assume there is already a horrendously niche strain of slash fiction devoted to what happens when these two finish chuckling about pussy-grabbing and head for the showers. But it is surely best left to the alt-right completists.


Marina Hyde

The GuardianTramp

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