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Does Qatar’s Football Policy Put Players at Risk of Exploitation?

Qatar’s policy of naturalising players for its national team attracts footballers from across the globe to try their luck in the country. But, given the potential pitfalls of the kafala system, this can leave them vulnerable to exploitation.

by Hayden Vernon
09 January 2017, 6:54pm

Image via Wikimedia Commons

There has always been a degree of snobbery in England about the idea of foreign-born players being called up to the national football team. Except for some ill-founded rumours about Mikel Arteta playing for the Three Lions under Fabio Capello (really Fab, another unwieldy central midfielder in that 4-4-2?), there has been little appetite for naturalisation. As such, almost all the players responsible for the national team's dismal performance at every major tournament in the last 20 years have been blue-blooded Englishmen. I'm looking at you, Le Saux.

However, for some countries, such as 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar, naturalising players presents a quick way of drafting talent into the national side and bolstering what would otherwise be a measly homegrown roster.

"Before, the QFA [Qatar Football Association] was recruiting stars players such as [Frank] LeBoeuf and [Gabriel] Batistuta," says Dr Mahfoud Amara, who researches sport migration at Qatar University. "This trend has continued with Xavi, but it seems the age of the migrant professional players signing contracts to play in the league is decreasing."

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