Away from Doha’s glittering towers, off a road lined with scruffy fast food outlets, and down a narrow, bumpy road that leads to the beach, stands the hotel that will host England at the World Cup.
When David Beckham and Gary Neville visited recently, their initial reaction was less than enthusiastic: “Who chose this?” It was Neville’s candid assessment because he was standing in front of
But what the hotel lacks in charm it makes up for in privacy: high walls surround the venue and are built in the traditional style of the souks that surround it. The rooms are arranged around a small courtyard to protect the privacy of the guests. There are very few outward facing windows. The only view of the beach is from the rooftop seating area.
Once inside, Beckham brightened up. “What you look for is quietness above all else,” he said as we strolled through the hotel grounds.
The beachfront has the feel of a run-down English seaside town, only hotter. In the evening the heat cools and families can swim in the sea or ride camels on the beach.
Back inside, the staff seem thrilled with the prospect of welcoming a top soccer player. “Did you know the England team is staying here? They booked the whole hotel. David Beckham came – I served him.
“No alcohol allowed. We are a dry hotel.
For a footballer used to outrageous luxuries, it’s a modest choice, closer to four stars than five. Standard rooms are small in size. Few facilities, limited food options, no pool (December is not Qatar’s swimming season). Rooms are available from around £70 per night.
Twenty-four of the tournament’s 32 teams are based in Doha, within 10km of each other, while the England hotel is in Al Wakrah, a small town about 25 minutes drive south of the capital. Aside from the beaches and souks, there is little to see or do, but in a country as small as Qatar, nothing is too far away.
England’s designated training grounds are minutes from the hotel. Arbeit Stadium, where England played most of their matches, is the furthest of the eight stadiums, but still within an hour’s drive of him.
Beckham, who reportedly signed a multi-million-pound deal to promote Qatar, sat in the hotel’s main courtyard with fountains roaring in the background and how “incredible” the World Cup was. He told Neville that it would be an “experience”. ”
But while the England national team may escape the fan frenzy at their beachside retreat, they can’t avoid the shadow of labor abuse that will befall this World Cup.
In the outdoor souks and along the seaside promenade, security guards from Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan and elsewhere endure 12-hour shifts for just over £1 an hour. They say they work 30 days a month. “If I take time off, they cut my salary,” one says.
They all say they are forced to pay exorbitant fees of up to £1,360 to agents in their home countries to secure jobs.
The recent reform of Qatar’s labor law, touted by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, should mean they are free to change jobs and seek better jobs, but workers who spoke to The Guardian I say it’s impossible.
“The company won’t let us leave. They say we have to cancel our visas, go home, and then apply for another job,” one said.
A Kenyan security guard in the middle of another 12-hour shift near the hotel sees Beckham differently. He explains that his own salary is much lower than what was promised when he left his home.
“It’s a trap, because in Kenya you’re told one thing, in Qatar you’re told another,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do. Just keep quiet and keep doing it.”
Under Qatar’s employment law, foreign workers have the right to change jobs if their contract is terminated, and legal proceedings will be taken if the employee fails to receive wages or benefits upon termination of their contract.
The Qatari government also said a fund to help workers, including refunds of unpaid wages and benefits, had paid out £152.5 million by the end of the month.
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