Sport and the celebration of athleticism and competition was deeply rooted in Ancient Greek ideals as a celebration of the human, a celebration of the individual and individual, and eventually team accomplishment.
From the ancient Greeks we’ve learned that Νους υγιής εν σώματι υγιεί— a healthy mind resides in a healthy body and we’ve continued their legacy of the love of humanity and humankind, as well as the very human celebration of sport through modern competitions like the Olympic Games and the World Cup which celebrates soccer– another Greek-origin sport.
These ideals are lost on the organizers of the World Cup and in particular, the host nation of the 2022 tournament in the tiny Persian Gulf nation of Qatar.
A short documentary film that showed up on my Facebook newsfeed. It was posted by a friend named Ted Phillipakos from New York who posts often about soccer and other sports-related matters. I don’t have much of an interest in either, but something prompted me to click “play” and watch the film. What I saw was shocking. Brutal treatment of migrant workers from some of the poorest places on earth, housed in modern-day Auschwitz-like labor camps.
Their passports are taken away from them, the contracts they sign effectively make them commodities of their employers— i.e. construction companies building state of the art stadiums and luxurious hotels so the world’s elite can pay thousands of dollars a ticket to watch a bunch of men kick a soccer ball around a grass field that’s been watered with the blood of thousands of human lives.
Thousands of men are dying inhumane deaths, leaving behind widows and huge debt— the companies actually make them take loans out against their paychecks to pay for the flight to Qatar and these loans are often enforced by the construction companies even after their workers’ deaths.
As we prepare to shout “ole ole ole” and Go Ellas! at the upcoming World Cup in Brazil— let’s pause for a moment and think about the human cost that sporting events like this.
Instead of these multi-national companies with billion-dollar profits spending a little effort to provide a real opportunity for some of the world’s poorest residents and really change lives— (hint from the ancient Greeks— that means celebrate humanity), instead they are trampling on it.
Those most guilty— the government of Qatar. These inhumane and uncivilized barbarians are spending $200 billion dollars to build stadiums and luxury hotels for a month-long soccer tournament. What would another billion have been to give these workers the treatment they deserve, a system they can thrive in and the support that will not allow ruthless contsruction firms to capitalize on human weakness.
Perhaps they should brush up on their Ancient Greek history and learn what sport really means. A good start would be Stephen Miller’s Arete: Greek Sport from Ancient Sources or the same author’s Ancient Greek Athletics.
I’ve already sent a message to the Qatari Embassy in Washington DC, letting them know that I’m appalled at the way their government is handling this matter. If you agree, drop them a line. But please watch the short documentary first.
Note: Thanks Ted Philipakos for bringing this to my attention.
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