The World Cup Football finals get underway in Brazil today – the long wait is over! They mean many different things to the billions around the world who will come together to watch, evoking intense emotions of national pride and glory, or humiliation and outrage. Goals and calls by referees are recalled decades later, hotly debated in a passion for the ‘beautiful game.’ One key aspect of this ultimate expression of globalization is that most of the players are migrants, either playing for their national teams while currently residing in another country (such as Lionel Messi, born in Argentina, living in Spain, and playing for Argentina), or playing for a national team different from their country of birth (such as Diego Costa, born in Brazil, living in Spain, and playing for Spain), or both (such as Miroslav Klose, born in Poland, living in Italy, and playing for Germany).
I was in Dubai last week when the news broke about Qatar's World Cup bid. Qatar winning the vote to host World Cup in 2022 will produce significant increases in migration flows from, and remittance flows to, South Asia, East Asia and East and North Africa.
Qatar employs just short of 1.5 million migrant workers currently. It is the largest host country for migrants in the world: the share of migrants in the population exceeds 85%, for every adult Qatari national, there are 10+ migrant workers (see Factbook, my earlier blog post). Although it does not report data on remittances to the IMF, newspapers quoting Qatar Central Bank reported outward remittances approaching $7 billion in 2010. The sheer increase in the demand for workers for constructing stadiums and developing infrastructure is expected to result in huge migration flows from South Asia, but also from East Asia (the Philippines, but also China). Outward remittances will rise more than proportionately, first because wages will rise, and second, because the authorities will provide greater scrutiny to recruitment practices and working conditions for migrant workers.
Amidst a cacophony of vuvuzelas, expectations for the African teams in this World Cup had never been higher. For the first time the tournament was held on African soil and many African teams had famous coaches - Sven Goran Erikson for Cote d’Iviore being one example. Most importantly, there have never been so many African players signed to the top European clubs in the world; perhaps none more famously so than Samuel Eto’o of Inter Milan or Didier Drogba of Chelsea. And yet, the African teams were knocked out of the competition in the group stages, one by one. That is, all except Ghana, the team on which all African hopes now rested.