The England team is shielded from fans by a World Cup hotel — and Qatar’s labor violations.

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By Creative Media News

The hotel that will house the England squad for the World Cup is located far from the gleaming skyscrapers of Doha, off a road lined with shabby fast-food restaurants, and down a narrow, uneven path that leads to a beach.

When David Beckham and Gary Neville visited recently, the immediate reaction of the former players was unenthusiastic. Neville asked bluntly, “Who chose this?” as they stood in front of the Souq al-Wakra hotel’s small entryway.

The england team is shielded from fans by a world cup hotel — and qatar's labor violations.
The england team is shielded from fans by a world cup hotel — and qatar's labor violations.

However, what the hotel lacks in glitz makes up for in seclusion. The arena is enclosed by high walls and constructed in the traditional manner of the surrounding souk. To maintain visitors’ privacy, the rooms are set around little courtyards. Few externally facing windows exist; the only ocean view is from a rooftop picnic area.

Once inside, Beckham’s mood improved. “More than anything else, tranquility is what you seek. As he went across the hotel grounds, he remarked, “You want to be in the middle of nothing.” This is the ideal situation.

The seashore is reminiscent of a dilapidated English seaside resort, except hotter. As the heat subsides in the evening, families flock to the beach to swim in the ocean or ride camels.

Qatars labour abuses
The england team is shielded from fans by a world cup hotel — and qatar's labor violations.

Back inside, the hotel staff appears enthusiastic about receiving England’s best footballers. “Are you aware that the England squad will be residing here?” They have reserved the entire hotel. “David Beckham came, and I served him,” an excited Indian waiter exclaims.

“Alcohol is not allowed. We are a dry hotel,” he says, implying that Gareth Southgate’s preference for the facility is not solely due to its privacy.

It is a modest option, more four-star than five-star, for sportsmen accustomed to outlandish luxury. There are few amenities, restricted dining options, and no swimming pool in the standard rooms (not that December is the swimming season in Qatar). Rooms cost approximately £70 per night.

While 24 of the 32 teams in the competition will be staying within 10 kilometers of each other in Doha, England will be staying in Al-Wakrah, a small village around 25 minutes south of the capital. Beyond the beach and souk, there is not much to see or do, yet in a country as small as Qatar, nothing is particularly distant.

The approved training ground for England is only a few minutes away from the hotel. The Al Bayt Stadium, where England could play most of their matches, is the most distant of the eight stadiums from the hotel, although it is still within an hour’s drive.

Beckham, who reportedly inked a multimillion-pound deal to promote Qatar, told Neville that the World Cup will be an “amazing experience” as they sat in the hotel’s main courtyard with fountains bubbling in the background. He stated, “This is a tournament that you will not want to miss.”

The England team may be able to escape the hysteria of fans in their coastal retreat, but they will not be able to escape the shadow of labor violations that will be cast over this World Cup.

In the outside souk and along the beachside promenade, security guards from Kenya, Nepal, and Pakistan endure 12-hour shifts for slightly more than £1 per hour. They report working 30 days per month. “My compensation is reduced if I take a day off,” says one.

They claim they were all compelled to pay exorbitant fees of up to $1,360 to agents in their home countries to gain employment, requiring them to work for months to return the expenses.

Recent revisions to Qatar’s labor regulations – highlighted by Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino – should allow them to change employment and look for something better, but according to the workers, this is not the case.

“The firm will not permit our departure. One states, “They tell us we must terminate our visas, return home, and then seek a new job.

A Kenyan security guard, in the middle of another 12-hour shift, has a different opinion of Beckham than the hotel’s staff. He explains that his compensation is far less than what he was promised before leaving home.

“It’s a trap because you’re told different things in Kenya and Qatar,” he explains. There is nothing that can be done. Simply keep quiet and move on.”

According to Qatari employment law, foreign workers have the right to switch occupations if their contract is ended, and there are legal procedures in place if an employee does not get their salary or allowances after their contract.

In addition, the Qatari government reported that a support fund for workers, which reimburses outstanding pay and benefits, has disbursed £152.5 million as of last month.

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