- Title: Sundance film looks into lives of World Cup workers
- Date: 26th January 2017
- Summary: DOHA, QATAR (FILE-FEBRUARY 24, 2015) (REUTERS) STADIUM VARIOUS OF WORKERS
- Embargoed: 9th February 2017 00:48
- Keywords: 2022 World Cup Qatar The Workers Cup Sundance Film Festival Adam Sobel documentary soccer
- Location: DOHA, QATAR; PARK CITY, UTAH, UNITED STATES; UNIDENTIFIED FILMING LOCATIONS
- City: DOHA, QATAR; PARK CITY, UTAH, UNITED STATES; UNIDENTIFIED FILMING LOCATIONS
- Country: USA
- Topics: Arts/Culture/Entertainment,Film
- Reuters ID: LVA00860PUBSV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Leaving behind labor camps for gleaming soccer stadiums, dozens of African and Asian migrant workers building facilities for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar compete in a football tournament of their own.
A workers cup, staged each year in Doha by the organizers of the 2022 competition, brings together teams of workers representing local construction firms to play for cash prizes in vast stadiums.
The plight of one Ghanaian worker, Kenneth, and his Indian, Kenyan and Nepali teammates is captured in "The Workers Cup", a documentary launched at Sundance film festival last week that offers a rare glimpse at the lives of workers in the wealthy Gulf state.
Conditions for the 1.6 million mainly Asian workers in Qatar have come under sharp scrutiny from rights groups who say migrants are forced to live in squalor and to work without proper access to water and shelter.
The film's director, ex-Qatar resident Adam Sobel, however, admitted that the conditions weren't something he wanted to cover in the film, saying "We were not interested in focusing on the working conditions, the living conditions because a lot of media has already been created about that and that wasn't really our characters' every day concerns. They were much more interested in ... they miss their family, they wish they could see a lady - these labor camps are nothing but men, thousands of men sometimes sharing a camp. They have no exposure whatsoever to women and also just being cut off from the rest of society and feeling lonely and isolated so that's the focus of our film and that is what I think is our characters' focus as well."
In the film Kenneth grapples with his fading ambitions of becoming a footballer as he returns from scoring goals at matches watched by hundreds to a low-paid job on a construction site and a cramped room in a desert labor camp.
His teammates include Paul, a Kenyan man frustrated by not being able to interact with the opposite sex; Padam, a Nepali office worker struggling to maintain a long-distance relationship and Umesh, an Indian father of two children named after Manchester United players, who hopes to save enough to build his family a home.
"The soccer provided this really unique lens which allows people to relate to our characters in ways that they couldn't otherwise," explained Sobel. "I do think that sport is universal in its agony and its ecstasy. It's a very human experience that we all know. In that respect, it breaks down that barrier that audiences might have otherwise with characters that come from another world and they wouldn't be able to relate to otherwise."
He added "The tournament was being held in some of the stadiums that these guys are helping to build so in that respect it was almost like a fantasy at times for the characters. They were living out a soccer fantasy but then when the tournament was over and the matches had ended, they would return to the labor camps and go back to living as the lowest classed citizens in the world's richest country. So the highs and lows were very much part of the film and I think those highs and lows echo the experiences of the workers who come with these hopes and dreams and then they meet reality which kind of crashes them down to earth."
Many of the men signed contracts under false pretenses from recruiters in their home countries and now work long hours for scant salaries.
"The life that I'm living here I try to hide it from my friends back home because they wouldn't understand it," says Paul, who left a job as a bartender in Kenya's Westgate Mall after it was attacked by gunmen in 2013 to travel to Qatar.
"But the life that I'm living here it's a different life. It's like you're trapped or something," he says.
The players forget their dejection - if only temporarily - as they sail to victory in several matches, winning the applause of their peers before losing in the semi-finals and returning to building - not playing in - Qatar's World Cup stadiums.
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