World Cup Fever is spreading fast throughout the planet, as we get closer to the next stage. Even though the world is celebrating and enjoying this tournament, there is a dark side that few are talking about. For over a year, there has been labor issues plaguing the cup in an economically struggling nation. Many South Africans have questioned their government’s lavish spending on “improvements” such as brand new stadiums, new hotels, and a new transit system. Although, seemingly nice upgrades, the people are disappointed millions have been spent on stadiums which will be used for one month, while 40% of South Africans live on just $2 a day.

On top of this issue, the people working the World Cup and making sure the tourists and football lovers are taken care of, are not being paid as promised. In particular the security guards and stewards. At the culmination of Sunday’s match between Australia and Germany, already an exciting game, hundreds marched into the streets of Durban to demand pay. Apparently, the security staff was promised 500 South African Rand ($65) to work the match, but only received 205 Rand ($26). Obviously, a huge difference and would upset anyone! One of the protesters discussed how much they have been working for so little:

We started at 12 noon and worked until midnight, and they want to give us 205 rand($26). Different things have been said to people, but we were promised 1,500 rand per day. We started to protest because we wanted to negotiate.

The protests may have begun as a negotiation, but Durban police were quickly called to break them up. No injuries or arrests have been reported, however, the strategy has spread to several stadiums in the many cities including: Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Johannesburg. More and more workers are going on strike, including 700 guards at the end of the North Korea and Brazil match. Many feel this is completely unfair and no “trickle down” is occurring in the country. Corporations and the government are making millions from the games, yet the workers on the ground are being paid so little.

Not surprisingly, the issue is trying to be kept quiet and FIFA, the organization responsible for directing the World Cup, refuses to comment. This is obviously an “embarrassment” to FIFA and would much better be brushed under a rug, than dealt with fairly. In fact, the chief executive of the local organizing committee for the cup stated, “This is an employer/employee wage dispute. Although we have respect for workers’ rights, we find it unacceptable for them to disrupt match-day proceedings and will not hesitate to take action in such instances.” This sort of attitude could be detrimental to the employees affected by this dispute.

Personally, I love the World Cup more than I can write into words, but when I read stories like this, it makes me sad.  It seems both FIFA and the South African government, as well as the companies profiting off the games, aren’t thinking with the people in mind. Making it worse, they want it kept quiet, so tourists, players, and the world media won’t notice their dirty little secret. Now, I am not calling for a boycott of the games (I don’t think I could do that to my heart), but try to keep the hard workers and their struggles in mind while watching the matches. And if you are really feeling empowered, contact FIFA and tell them just how you feel.

-Gina Williams

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