It would have been a lucrative order for freight carriers: flying 1,280 tons of general cargo from the Netherlands to Qatar within a noticeably short time frame. The grass mat shipments were originally projected for Q1 or Q2 next year, well ahead of the next soccer World Cup due to be kicked off on 21NOV22, but the plans are off the table because the Dutch company values morals and ethics more than money.
Ordinary grass mats, a rather uncommon commodity for air cargo, were planned to fly from the Netherlands, or neighboring Germany, to Doha. Specialist Hendriks Graszoden, based in Hethuysen in the
Netherlands, is the producer of the lawns that were intended to be rolled out at the 8 brand new arenas which Qatar is currently erecting.
In the meantime, however, the Dutch firm has withdrawn from the contract, pointing at the poor working conditions and the many dead who lost their lives during the construction of the sports facilities. Almost all victims were migrant workers from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, or Bangladesh, and hired by the Qataris to complete all work on the sports venues in time.
Extremely high death toll
Meanwhile, work on most of the contest sites is well advanced, for example: the Lusail Iconic Stadium accommodating 86,250 visitors. Similarly, Al Bayt Stadium (60,000 seats), or the Khalifa International Arena (68,030 attendees), are taking shape. Mostly accomplished by the stream of Asian migrant workers.
However, the price these poorly paid people pay is enormously high. As the British paper The Guardian revealed in a report published on 08MAR21, 6,700 migrant workers have meanwhile died on the construction sites since FIFA awarded Qatar the World Cup ten years ago in a disputed decision that was marked by fierce allegations of bribery and corruption. That translates into two deaths every day.
Flying in grass
Since world class soccer cannot be played on inappropriate surfaces, the Qatari World Cup organization committee approached the Dutch manufacturer, Hendriks Graszoden, to supply sufficient grass mats to equip all 8 arenas. According to the company, the size of a single playing field encompasses 8,000 m². In other words, a total of 64,000 m² of fast-rooting and robust, high quality grass mats are needed to equip all 8 arenas.
It was stipulated that these should fly by air from Holland to Qatar. An expensive undertaking, since one m² weighs 20 kilograms on average. Thus, the grass for a single 8,000 m² stadium amounts to 160,000 kg. Multiplied by 8, this results in a total sum of 1,280 tons of lawn to be flown to Doha.
Sea freight is not an option, as the grass, which is rolled and wrapped for transport, tends to rot due to the lack of light and oxygen in the containers on its journey from Rotterdam to Doha.
“We’ve seen what happens there”
However, all considerations in this context have vanished into thin air, because Hendriks Graszoden has refused to supply the sods, blaming Qatar for constantly violating human rights and being responsible for a death toll that has meanwhile surpassed 6,700 victims. "We have seen what happens there," the company’s spokesperson, Gerdien Vloet, told Dutch radio station L1.
By not supplying grass mats to the Qataris, Hendriks Graszoden is breaking with a long-standing tradition, as the turf specialist has been a loyal supplier to major soccer and sports events in the past. The company’s management blamed FIFA of foul play, since the global soccer association did not intervene in the poor working conditions in Qatar, to stop exploitation and secure labor standards.
Boycott demand on the rise
Meanwhile, reactions are pouring in applauding Graszoden’s step. “Respect for this decision,” writes one Twitter user. “Homage to this company,” enthuses another. Other voices point out that ethical entrepreneurship is indeed possible as demonstrated by the turf provider.
On a broader level, the discussion about working conditions in Qatar and the many dead is also picking up. There is growing criticism in Holland, demanding to boycott the World Cup.
The topic is also gaining momentum further north. Tromsoe IL soccer club from Norway says in a press release that the strategy of dialogue with Qatar has not brought any results. “We believe the time is ripe for the next step: boycott," reads the statement published by the club.
This call is supported by Viking Stavanger, Stroemsgodset IF, and Odds BK with more soccer clubs likely to follow.
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