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Norway football club launches kit to highlight Qatar abuses

December 6, 2021

Norwegian football club Tromso IL has released a jersey with a QR code linking to information on human rights concerns ahead of Qatar's 2022 World Cup. The shirt gives users information on so-called "sportswashing."

Foreign construction workers queue up for the bus back to their accommodation camp in Doha
Many foreign employees work under the Kafala system, which ties them to a particular employerImage: picture-alliance/dpa

The Norwegian club Tromso IL on Monday launched what it calls the world's first football jersey with a QR code to highlight alleged human rights abuses ahead of next year's World Cup in Qatar.

Qatar is accused of allowing abuses against migrant workers, many of whom are involved in building of World Cup stadiums and infrastructure.

What's the aim of the shirt?

The team developed the shirt in collaboration with Amnesty International and a former migrant worker in the Gulf nation.

It features a QR code that, when scanned with a mobile phone, takes users to a website with information about alleged human rights violations in the 2022 World Cup host nation.

The site highlights the plight of some of those migrant workers who come from Bangladesh, the Philippines, India and Nepal, among other places. The workers are employed in building stadiums, subways, roads and other infrastructure.

Some 90% of the country's population are migrants without citizenship who also work as taxi drivers, security guards and service industry staff.

"By doing this, we hope to spark more discussions, more debate. We want to see more action," said Tom Hogli, a former player now in charge of public relations at Tromso IL as he presented the jersey.

Of key concern to Amnesty is the "Kafala system" — a sponsorship scheme where migrant workers are tied to their employer.

It means workers are not able to move freely or change jobs, and often have unworthy living conditions and are denied pay.

Amnesty says the system is not in line with international human rights, which Qatar is obliged to respect.

The team will give the shirt its debut in a league game against opponents Viking FK next Sunday.

"We can't pretend football and politics are unrelated, and we must never look the other way when some use our beautiful game to overshadow human rights violations," the club said. Tromso IL accuses Qatar of "sportswashing" — using prestigious sporting events to improve its image while failing to address deeper issues.

"We can change this together. Stop sportswashing. Keep the game clean," said Tromso.

Failed call for national boycott

Qatar has rejected any criticism. The country argues that it has reformed its labor laws and introduced a minimum wage. While Amnesty International has acknowledged the measures taken by Qatar, it says there are still abuses.

Tromso IL had called for Norway to boycott the World Cup should its national team reach the finals.

However, the Norwegian federation ultimately voted against the idea in June, and the country has since failed to qualify in any case.

The creation of the shirt was partly inspired by former migrant worker Malcolm Bidali, a Kenyan security guard in Qatar who wrote under a pseudonym about his life as a low-wage worker.

Qatari authorities convicted Bidali of sharing "fake news." A migrant rights group paid his $6,800 fine and he was freed from months of detention in August.

rc/msh (AFP, AP)