Skip to main content

Ahead of FIFA’s Congress, Global Body Covers Up Rights Abuses 


16 March 2023

Ahead of FIFA’s Congress, Global Body Covers Up Rights Abuses 

FIFA Holding its Congress in Rwanda Legitimizes One of the Most Repressive Regimes in Africa 

For Immediate Release 

March 9, 2023 


FIFA is turning a blind eye to companies covering up significant current and post-World Cup exploitation of workers ahead of its 73rd Congress, to be held in Rwanda on March 16, 2023, Equidem has found. Violations of workers’ rights at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 include illegal recruitment charges, nationality-based discrimination, unpaid wages, exposure to extreme heat and other health and safety risks, overwork and workplace violence, with some practices amounting to forced labor indicators, as defined under international standards. These abuses continue to persist past the World Cup according to Equidem’s findings.  

“FIFA’s President Gianni Infantino called Qatar 2022 “the best World Cup ever”, and it certainly was for the organisation’s profits. While FIFA itself admits to making $7.5 billion from the tournament, the Qatar authorities estimate they made a whopping $17.5 billion, and players took home $440 million in prize money. Our research suggests thousands of workers are still owed hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid wages and other compensation,” said Equidem CEO Mustafa Qadri. 

“FIFA may talk a good game, but its actions demonstrate that it cannot be trusted on human rights. Its leadership promised, time and again, respect for workers’ rights at the tournament, but as worker whistleblowers told Equidem, companies linked to the royal family covered up forced labour practices instead of simply meeting their key responsibilities,” Qadri said. 

“Adding insult to injury, FIFA is holding its Congress in Rwanda, one of the most repressive states in Africa, legitimizing a regime that stands accused of indefinitely detaining and torturing activists for simply speaking their minds. FIFA and its partners, given one of the largest platforms on earth, are literally monetizing misery. But there are solutions. FIFA must compensate the thousands of Qatari World Cup workers for the harms they face, and strictly enforce its own human rights responsibilities,” Qadri said. 

Equidem has spoken to hundreds of workers between November 2021 and March 2023, documenting in video testimonies cases of worker exploitation. Workers describe – in their own words – their experiences of labour exploitation before, during, and after the tournament. Yusuf Farooqi, a security guard from Pakistan who worked at 974 Stadium was made to pay 17,000 Qatari Riyal (USD 4,670) in illegal recruitment fees. He told Equidem:  

“I borrowed all the money for this visa from friends and relatives… even I took my grandmother’s wedding ring for this visa.”  

Andrew Maganga, a security guard from Kenya who worked at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 said he had to sell his father's land to acquire the money to cover the 10,500 Qatari Riyal (USD $2,884) fee for his visa. In addition many workers were unable to make any complaints as one Indian construction worker employed by Qatar royal family-owned Hamad Bin Khalid Contracting Company (HBK) on Lusail Stadium put it,  

“If we protest, they threaten to cut our salaries or they fire us. Supervisors shout, abuse, and sometimes even beat workers. This is why no one protests. If I complain I will be abused, threatened with dismissal, and the duty will be made stricter for me.”  

Equidem continues to track down workers and families owed compensation and has been filing these cases with the authorities to little avail. Go to to support Equidem to track down the thousands of World Cup workers and families owed compensation for unpaid wages, injuries and even deaths. 

Exacerbating rights abuses by Saudi Arabia 

Equidem is particularly concerned that FIFA may have chosen Saudi Arabia, one of the most restrictive countries for women and activists, to sponsor the Women's World Cup and host the FIFA Club World Cup at the end of the year. Possible consequences for some of the players could mean detention in jail or even corporal punishment in the form of lashes for those that are LGBTI+.  

“The bizarre and shameless decision to award a lucrative sponsorship deal and Club World Cup hosting rights to one of the most abusive countries for workers, women, activists, and the Queer community demonstrates how craven FIFA has become in its pursuit of naked profits and power. It is high time for the richest sporting body on earth to comply with its own statute that requires it to respect “all internationally recognised human rights,” and to “strive to promote the protection of these rights,”” Qadri said. 

Equidem has previously documented labor rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, including systematic discrimination, weak enforcement, and the prohibition on migrant workers from joining or forming a union that continues to leave millions at risk of modern slavery. Equidem has urged the Saudi government to address discriminatory laws and policies that have left millions of migrant workers at risk of modern slavery – reforms have yet to be realized.  


Read more: 

“If we complain, we are fired”: Discrimination and Exploitation of Migrant Construction Workers on FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Stadium Sites (Report, November 10, 2022)  

"We work like robots” Discrimination and Exploitation of Migrant Workers in FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Hotels" (Report, July 29, 2022) 

"EXPOsed: Discrimination and forced labour practices on Expo 2020 Dubai" (Report, February 2021) 

"The Cost of Contagion The human rights impacts of COVID-19 on migrant workers in the Gulf" (Report, December 9, 2020) 

About Equidem 

Equidem is a human and labour rights organisation, anchored in the global south. We work globally and locally to promote the rights of marginalised communities and accountability for serious human rights violations by governments, businesses and individuals. 

Follow Equidem on Twitter and visit for more information. Support Equidem’s worker teams to track down Qatar World Cup workers owed compensation.