Middle EastWorld

Qatar’s migrant workers enjoying World Cup games

DOHA: Shafeeq Saqafi proudly wore an Argentina shirt when he sat with 15,000 other migrant workers in a hidden corner of Doha to watch Lionel Messi’s side salvage their World Cup. Messi’s goal in the 2-0 win over Mexico late Saturday brought the biggest crowd seen at the Asian Town stadium to their feet and Saqafi beat his chest in delight. “The shirt was something I really wanted,” said the 32-year-old hotel worker from Bangladesh.

Saqafi is one of the 2.5 million foreign workers who have been the foundation of Qatar’s economic miracle – helping pump oil and gas, building its World Cup stadiums and infrastructure and staffing the dozens of new hotels that have opened in the past five years. The stadium, in the Asian Town shopping complex on the outskirts of Doha, has become a daily draw for thousands of workers who live in nearby dormitories away from Doha’s glitzy shopping malls and restaurants.

An Indian woman DJ revs up the overwhelmingly male and South Asian crowd before each match with Hindi pop songs and Bollywood videos. Many, like Saqafi, wear Argentina shirts. For most, the fan zone on the cricket pitch is the nearest they will get to the World Cup. A few thousand 40-riyal ($10) World Cup tickets were put on sale and quickly snapped up.

Yaseen Gul, who has worked for a Doha electrical firm for a decade, said he comes to the stadium “to enjoy myself – cheaply”. “My salary has improved and I will not go home,” he said. Shakeel Mahmoud said he could not afford to buy match tickets and he had to leave the Argentina game before the end because he had to go work. A cup of hot milky tea at the stadium beverage stand costs $1, but there were no queues. “There is no pressure to buy anything so I am grateful for that,” said Mahmoud. – AFP

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