Cards of Qatar

Revealing the grim truth behind the FIFA World Cup in Qatar  

Blankspot is a digital journalism platform. Their goal is to tell stories that do not get told: from corners of the world that often get overlooked. This time – in collaboration with Forza Football app – Blankspot put their looking glass on the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and the thousands of deaths among migrant workers preparing the country for the tournament. 

Ever since Qatar was awarded the FIFA World Cup, a lot has been written about the varying numbers of deaths that have been reported. NGOs claim thousands of migrant workers have suffered or died during their time in Qatar, a country heavily criticized for inhumane working conditions for migrant workers. In search of answers, Blankspot collected stories directly from the families and widows left behind.  

At first glance, Cards of Qatar looks like the official set of the 2022 World Cup football trading cards. But instead of players, the portraits are of real migrant workers, each with a story of premature death or lifelong injury.  

“Cards of Qatar is a way to spread the stories to a large audience while also putting more pressure on FIFA and other organizations arranging sporting events. Major championships shouldn't be organized by countries that do not respect fundamental human rights,” says Patrik Arnesson, founder of Forza Football.  

Blankspot first presented Cards of Qatar at Play The Game, one of the world’s biggest sports conferences. Next, the cards were sent to FIFA, the Qatari government and World Cup sponsors to hold them accountable. To raise further awareness, we released one story every day leading up to the event on X and Instagram, as well as a short documentary and long-form articles. The cards were also available in stores, right next to the official football trading cards. 

“Death is a natural part of life.”

Nasser Al Khater, chief executive of the 2022 World Cup

Quote by Nasser Al Khater, chief executive of the 2022 World Cup when asked by reporters about the death of a Filipino worker at the hotel where the Saudi National Team stayed during the tournament.  

The public interest in the World Cup drew attention to Qatar’s labor practices and prompted important reforms from the government. It reduced residential crowding in worker camps, created a minimum wage, and lifted restrictions on those who wished to change employers. Yet, human rights groups still insist that there is a long way to go. According to Amnesty International, thousands of workers are still facing delayed or unpaid wages, refusal of rest days, unsafe working conditions, impediments to changing jobs, and unsatisfactory avenues for addressing grievances. 

Campaign results

Cards of Qatar is the result of a deep and unconventional partnership where journalism reached football fans, but also a wider audience through the power of a creative idea.

It is also proof of how storytelling centered around something as relatable and simple as football cards can be mighty enough to reach the world through PR and earned media: +500 articles in 95 countries and more than 950 million impressions. More than anything, it sparked a global discussion that will continue long after the last game was played at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.