Thousands of migrant worker deaths and Qatar’s stance on women’s and LGBTQ+ rights have prompted some British football fans to boycott this year’s World Cup.
Alex Murphy has found a community through football. His weekends are spent cheering on Ipswich Town, where he holds a season ticket, the Arsenal women’s team near his north London address, or playing five-a-side with his teams: Saka Potatoes and Olympique Mayonnaise. He has watched every World Cup since 2002 and enjoys the inclusivity of the event, which even his mum, who doesn’t really care about football, gets into. But this year, he won’t be tuning in.
He made the decision in January, when he became aware that more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died after Qatar embarked on an unprecedented building programme, largely in preparation for the tournament.
Murphy was already disappointed that the country, which has a problematic track record with women and LGBTQ+ rights, had won the bid and been given the opportunity to sportswash its image. “I think by not participating in it, you’re partly defining what it is about the game you love,” he says.