Qatari Soccer Team Forces Migrant Workers to Run Half-Marathon in Flip Flops Without Water

By | April 3, 2015

When I first saw articles about this event, I thought it was some kind of satire or click-bait headline, but unfortunately, its not.  Al Saad Sports Club, the Qatari Club that Xavi is rumored to be signing for, organized a “mega marathon” in which they wanted 50,000 people to run in order to break the Guinness World Record [1]. According to Doha News, only a few thousand people signed up, so the Qatari club turned to migrant workers and allegedly forced them to participate, raising the announced attendance to 33,000 people [3]. quoted a participant as saying “The worst part of all was that there was a large mass of labourers wearing jeans, flip-flops and no proper running equipment [2]. Some labourers tried to leave but were turned back and were yelled at that they need to stay and cross the line” [2]. According to Doha News, a representative of the Mega Marathon stated that the organizers gave out shoes and running attire to every participant; however, many did not want to wear it [3]. That statement, at least to me, seems laughable. Despite the 84 degree weather, as the race started at 2 PM, race organizers were also instructed to stop giving out water to the runners [1]. This story is incredibly unbelievable.


While the above raises even more human rights violations and lack of common sense, the organization of the marathon also raises questions about the organization of the 2022 World Cup. According to the Doha News, runners raised safety concerns as the police roadblocks for the course were removed when many runners were still participating in the race [3]. Also, according to participants, the free bussing system to the race was organized incredibly poorly and there were many transportation glitches to and from the megamarathon[3]. This is not the first time that Qatar has hosted a sizable event and received much criticism. In January 2014, PSG and Real Madrid played a friendly in front of 39,710, and many fans complained about the lack of organization and in-stadium stewards [4]. Fans also complained of chaos outside the stadium in which fans jumped over fences and turnstiles. If Qatar is unable to handle the organization of events in the 30,000-40,000 people range, its unlikely that the 2022 World Cup will be a logistical success.











Thumbnail from Al-Saad Sports Club

Category: Qatar

About Dylan Newman

I am a junior at Duke studying history and economics. This past summer I worked in Brussels, Belgium and got to experience the World Cup with many Belgian fans in Grand Place, Place Lux, and King Baudoin Stadium. Their passion for the game was unlike anything I've seen before.

4 thoughts on “Qatari Soccer Team Forces Migrant Workers to Run Half-Marathon in Flip Flops Without Water

  1. Camil

    I think I can speak for millions of fans when I say that I hope the 2022 World Cup fails spectacularly. There are so many aspects to this event existing that are wrong. First of all, the timing: how can you hold the world’s biggest sporting event in November and December? At least when its held during the summer, kids all around the world are on vacation and able to enjoy the games that are played at any time of day. With this World Cup being played during the school year and a very busy time of year in general, it will be highly unlikely to attract as many viewers. This is especially true for a large number of Americans who no doubt will prefer to watch football and basketball in their peak seasons over soccer. World Cups should be held in the summer, where it doesn’t interfere with many other major events and when most people around the world can spare time to watch it. Secondly, the location is a factor that is deeply vexing to me. Qatar is a country that has an EXTREMELY limited history and culture of soccer, barely garnering any international attention even though it is their national sport. Attempting to fit all the stadiums, infrastructure, and millions of fans that a World Cup needs into a 100-mile peninsula will certainly be a logistical disaster as well. All of these detriments are in addition to the atrocious conditions that migrant workers are forced to toil through for minimum pay, a treatment akin to modern day slavery. For me, these are all signs that the Qatar world cup is not some bold venture by FIFA to diversify the spread of the sport, but simply the product of intense lobbying and possibly (definitely) bribing by top Qatari oil officials to bring tourism to their country.

  2. Brian Wolfson

    This is absolutely astonishing. I wonder how they can get away with things as horrible as this, and the international community (or FIFA for that matter) doesn’t step up! This just adds to the belief that something wrong or illegal was involved in the decision for Qatar to host the World Cup.

    Given that Xavi is rumored to be playing for Al Saad, I wonder how this news will affect him. Will he still transfer to the club? It makes a huge PR statement, as of course if Xavi goes to Qatar, it’s mainly for the money and attention he will receive, but some might claim that he’ll be supporting the actions the team takes towards migrant workers.

  3. Paige Newhouse

    Thanks for writing about this Dylan. This is a disgusting violation of human rights. Based on other articles from the Blog that I have read, I am really concerned about the 2022 World Cup. This should be a celebration and Qatar should be working to bring people from all over the world and all walks of life together. Instead it seems like Qatar and Qatari companies are abusing people to make money and build up appearances.

    Its interesting how the Qatari Club forced migrant workers, people who are arguably the most exploited group in any community, to run the marathon. In addition to raising awareness about Qatar’s human rights record, this incident brings attention to migrant workers’ rights. Governments/Companies in countries with high standards of living hire migrant workers to perform undesirable labor tasks that no one else will undertake. Migrant workers often spend months/years away from their families to make money and provide for their families. Moreover, migrant workers build up countries economies and are treated like dirt in return.

  4. Raya

    This is just awful and a violation of human rights. I can’t imagine how unsuccessful the world cup is going to be in Qatar


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