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Finnish football captain calls for activism over Qatar World Cup worker exploitation

In an article published by an online sports magazine, Tim Sparv said awareness needs to be raised about human rights violations.

Tim Sparv kiittää kannattajia.
Finnish football captain Tim Sparv. Image: 2021 Getty Images

The captain of Finland's men's international football team, Tim Sparv, has called on players, fans, journalists and "anyone who simply cares about human rights" to put more pressure on Qatari authorities and world governing body FIFA over the treatment of migrant workers building stadiums for next year's World Cup finals.

"I'm not an expert, but as the captain of the Finnish national team, I know that I might soon be playing in stadiums that have cost workers their lives," Sparv wrote in an article for The Player's Tribune, an online sports magazine which publishes first-person stories from professional athletes.

The Finland and HJK midfielder cited an article by The Guardian newspaper from earlier this year which revealed that up to 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since the Gulf state was awarded the World Cup by FIFA in December 2010.

Despite adding that "we woke up too late" to this issue, Sparv said that there is still time to improve and even save the lives of migrant workers and put an end to human rights violations in the country.

'Fans need to talk about it'

"To do that, though, we need to keep the spotlight on Qatar. Fans need to talk about it, journalists need to write about it, organisations need to highlight it. And players really have to speak up about it," he wrote, adding that he first started to look deeper into the subject after his HJK teammate Riku Riski refused a call up from the Finnish national team to join a training camp in Qatar, citing ethical concerns.

"It seems crazy that while migrant workers were suffering and even dying in Qatar I was worrying about the distance between our midfield and our defence," Sparv wrote. "Luckily, Riku saw the bigger picture."

The Finnish captain therefore called on his fellow professional players to consider how the migrant workers and their families are being treated.

"If you can summon the courage, get informed, get involved and speak up," Sparv advises. "Get in touch with workers' representatives, human rights organisations or your players' union, and ask how you can help make an impact for the workers on the ground."

Finland's men's national team has never qualified for a World Cup finals but they currently sit in second position in qualifying Group D after a 1-0 win over Kazakhstan in Helsinki on Saturday.

The Huuhkajat, or Eagle Owls, next face World Champions France on Tuesday in Lyon.

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