What World Cup? Migrant workers in Qatar enjoy a game of CRICKET

What World Cup? Migrant workers who built the stadiums for Qatar 2022 enjoy a sunrise game of CRICKET in Doha on their one day off of the week

  • Migrant workers were seen playing a sunrise game of cricket ahead of Friday’s World Cup games in Doha
  • Cricket remains a popular sport across the former British Empire, where many migrant workers traveled from
  • Laborer rights have been a focus of this World Cup since Qatar won the bid for the tournament back in 2010
  • Some migrant workers appeared nervous when Associated Press journalists stopped by their matches 
  • Click here for all your latest international Sports news from DailyMail.com

Football isn’t the only pastime being celebrated in Qatar this month.

As dawn broke Friday in Doha, the laborers who built this energy-rich country’s World Cup soccer stadiums, roads and subway filled empty stretches of asphalt and sandlots to play the sport closest to their hearts — cricket.

The sport that spread across the reaches of the former British empire remains a favorite of the South Asian laborers who power economies across the Arabian Peninsula.

It’s a moment of respite for workers, who typically just have Friday off in Qatar and much of the rest of the Gulf Arab nations. And it’s one they look forward to all week, batting and bowling before the heat of the day fully takes hold.

‘It’s in our blood,’ said laborer Kesavan Pakkirisamy as he coached his team at one sandlot, the skyline of Doha visible in the distance. ‘We’ve played cricket since a long time. It’s a happy journey for us.’

People play cricket in the streets in Doha, Qatar on Friday before a full slate of World Cup soccer action

As dawn broke Friday in Doha, the laborers who built this energy-rich country’s World Cup soccer stadiums, roads and subway filled empty stretches of asphalt and sandlots to play the sport closest to their hearts — cricket

While much of Doha was still asleep, migrant workers traveled into the city streets and vacant lots to play cricket 

Rows of condominiums can be seen in the background as groups of workers play cricket in the streets of Doha 

Some appeared nervous when Associated Press journalists stopped by their matches, with several asking if they’d be in trouble for playing cricket in vacant lots in his autocratic nation. Others, however, smiled and invited visitors to watch

Laborer rights have been a focus of this World Cup since Qatar won the bid for the tournament back in 2010. Workers can face long hours, extortion and low pay. Qatar has overhauled its labor laws to put in a minimum wage and untie visas from employers, though activists have urged more to be done.

On Fridays, however, laborers control their day. Just down the road from the global headquarters of Qatar’s satellite news network Al Jazeera, workers gathered in a parking lot and another large desert expanse wedged between roads.

Some appeared nervous when Associated Press journalists stopped by their matches, with several asking if they’d be in trouble for playing cricket in vacant lots in his autocratic nation. Others, however, smiled and invited visitors to watch.

Hary R., an Indian from the southern state of Kerala, showed a reporter the mobile phone app he used to keep track of runs and overs. While Friday’s match was a friendly, there are tournaments organized among the Indian and Sri Lankan communities in Qatar to vie for supremacy.

‘We are working throughout the week and we need to just get relaxed and meet our friends just for time pass and entertainment,’ he said. His teammates on the Strikers, some of whom wore matching uniforms, shouted at him to keep track of the game.

On Fridays laborers control their day. Just down the road from the global headquarters of Qatar’s satellite news network Al Jazeera, workers gathered in a parking lot and another large desert expanse wedged between roads

Cricket, with its lush green grass pitches, may seem like an anomaly in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. However, the need for migrant labor has seen Gulf Arab nations draw cricket-playing workers to their shores for decades

For migrant laborers in the region, any empty patch of ground can be turned into a cricket pitch

Pakkirisamy, who shouted encouragement near two discarded couches used by players as a bench, praised his company for helping his colleagues take part in wider competitions.

‘From my father and my grandfather, they have been playing in cricket since since a childhood age,’ he said, describing a lifelong love of the game.

Pakkirisamy and his teammates, while lovers of cricket, still were excited about the World Cup being in Qatar.

‘We are here for work, we are here for earning something for our family,’ he said, adding that being in Qatar means, ‘It’s easy for us to be there, to see the game on ground, not only the TV.’

Cricket, with its lush green grass pitches, may seem like an anomaly in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. However, the need for migrant labor has seen Gulf Arab nations draw cricket-playing workers to their shores for decades.

The United Arab Emirates has a cricket team that qualified for the International Cricket Council’s T20 World Cup in Australia last month.

Dubai in the UAE is even home to the ICC’s headquarters and has hosted major cricket events, including the Indian Premier League, the Pakistan Super League and the T20 championships.

But for laborers in the region, any empty patch of ground can be turned into a pitch.

‘You can you can be in any road. You can be in any place,’ Pakkirisamy said. ‘Any small place, you can play cricket.’

The sport that spread across the reaches of the former British empire remains a favorite of the South Asian laborers who power economies across the Arabian Peninsula 

With Doha’s skyline in the background, one batsman attempts to beat out a throw on Friday morning 

Hary R. (not pictured), an Indian from the southern state of Kerala, showed a reporter the mobile phone app he used to keep track of runs and overs. While Friday’s match was a friendly, there are tournaments organized among the Indian and Sri Lankan communities in Qatar to vie for supremacy

Besides cricket, migrant workers have impressed visitors in Qatar with their singing ability, as well.

Seated all over Qatar’s capital on high chairs more commonly used by lifeguards at swimming pools, these migrant workers have become a staple of the Middle East’s first World Cup.

They point visitors flooding into this Arabian Peninsula nation in the right direction on their search for public transportation. It’s an important crowd control measure as some 1.2 million fans are expected to inundate Qatar, a country home to 3 million people.

The vast majority of the marshals come from Kenya and Ghana. They say they responded to job ads in August and September, ahead of the World Cup.

After a monotonous start, some marshals now sing or chant their instructions to fans. Bullhorns they carry blast out the recorded message again, and again, and again.

The instructions spark laughter among fans who often join in with the chants.

‘Which way?’ the fans chant.

‘This way,’ ushers respond, pointing a giant foam finger toward a station on Doha’s new massive underground metro built for the tournament.

The exchange then finds its rhythm and turns into almost a song: ‘Metro, metro, metro, this way, this way, this way.’

Abubakar Abbas of Kenya says it all started as a way of easing boredom during his first days of work.

‘The fans were just passing by without any engagement,’ Abbas told The Associated Press from his high chair outside the Souq Waqif metro station, ‘So I decided to come up with an idea where I can engage the fans and be interesting at the same time. That’s how I came up with the idea and thank God it is trending now.’

Osama, 21 years-old, from Palestine works as a street marshal prior to the World Cup group G soccer match between Brazil and Serbia, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Thursday

Qatar’s World Cup has already produced memorable moments on the pitch, including Argentina’s surprise defeat to Saudi Arabia and Germany’s loss to Japan.

Outside the stadiums, the marshals trance-like chant is stuck in people’s head.

‘Even when I sleep at night, I hear ‘metro, metro, metro’ ringing in my head,’ he said.

Last week, FIFA President Gianni Infantino lectured Europeans for criticizing Qatar’s human rights record and defended the host country’s last-minute decision to ban beer from World Cup stadiums.

The FIFA president delivered a one-hour tirade on the eve of the World Cup’s opening match, and then spent about 45 minutes answering questions from media about the Qatari government’s actions and a wide range of other topics.

‘Today I feel Qatari,’ Infantino said Saturday at the start of his first news conference of the World Cup. ‘Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel a migrant worker.’

Infantino later shot back at one reporter who noticed he left women out of his unusual declaration.

‘I feel like a woman,’ the FIFA president responded.

Qatar has faced a litany of criticism since 2010, when it was chosen by FIFA to host the biggest soccer tournament in the world.

Infantino also defended the country’s immigration policy, and praised the government for bringing in migrants to work.

‘We in Europe, we close our borders and we don’t allow practically any worker from those countries, who earn obviously very low income, to work legally in our countries,’ Infantino said. ‘If Europe would really care about the destiny of these people, these young people, then Europe could also do as Qatar did.

‘But give them some work. Give them some future. Give them some hope. But this moral-lesson giving, one-sided, it is just hypocrisy.’

Street marshals work prior to the World Cup group G soccer match between Brazil and Serbia, at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar

A street marshal gives indications to fans at a subway station prior to the World Cup group G soccer match between Brazil and Serbia, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail

Qatar is governed by a hereditary emir who has absolute say over all governmental decisions and follows an ultraconservative form of Islam known as Wahhabism. In recent years, Qatar has been transformed following a natural gas boom in the 1990s, but it has faced pressure from within to stay true to its Islamic heritage and Bedouin roots.

Under heavy international scrutiny, Qatar has enacted a number of labor reforms in recent years that have been praised by Equidem and other rights groups. But advocates say abuses are still widespread and that workers have few avenues for redress.

Infantino, however, continued to hit the Qatari government’s talking points of turning criticism back onto the West.

‘What we Europeans have been doing for the past 3,000 years we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years before we start giving moral lessons to people,’ said Infantino, who moved last year from Switzerland to live in Doha ahead of the World Cup.

In response to his comments, human rights group Amnesty International said Infantino was ‘brushing aside legitimate human rights criticisms’ by dismissing the price paid by migrant workers to make the tournament possible and FIFA’s responsibility for it.

‘Demands for equality, dignity and compensation cannot be treated as some sort of culture war – they are universal human rights that FIFA has committed to respect in its own statutes,’ said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty’s head of economic and social justice.

Infantino (L) attends the FIFA World Cup 2022 group A soccer match between Qatar and Senegal at Al Thumama Stadium

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