Inside the labor camps of Qatar, African and Asian migrant workers building the facilities of the 2022 World Cup compete in a football tournament of their own: The Workers Cup.
In 2022, Qatar will host the biggest sporting event in the world, the FIFA World Cup. But right now, far away from the bright lights, star athletes and adoring fans, the tournament is being built on the backs of 1.6 million
migrant workers. The Workers Cup is a feature-length documentary giving voice to the men who are laboring to build sport’s grandest stage.
Sixty percent of Qatar’s total population are laborers. From India, Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and, increasingly from Africa, some of the world’s poorest people are working the lowest level jobs to ensure the World
Cup can be hosted in the world’s richest country. These men work exceedingly long hours for scant salaries, and they live isolated in labor camps which are by law kept outside city limits.
With unprecedented access, our film unfolds largely inside a Qatari labor camp that the migrant workers we meet say feels like a prison. Hidden between a highway and remote stretch of desert, the Umm Salal Camp is
intentionally out of sight and out of mind. So are the 4000 men who live
We focus on a select group in the camp who have been chosen to compete in a football tournament for laborers: The Workers Cup. The tournament is being sponsored by the same committee organizing the 2022 World Cup and 24 construction companies have been invited to field a team of workers. Over the course of the tournament we follow the men as they alternate between two startling extremes: they play heroes on the football pitch, but are the lowest members of society off of it.
The film is a portrait of a handful of players on the team. It explores universal themes of ambition, aspiration and masculinity, as we see our protagonists wrangle hope, meaning, and opportunity out of dismal circumstances. The mundane is fraught with turmoil, whether it is changing jobs, talking with family back home, or going on a date. This results in a terrible toll to the psyche of our protagonists, as they are depleted of the hope that motivated
them to come to Qatar in the first place.
Ultimately, our own complicated relationship with sport is revealed, as we see its power to unite and divide society by turns.
The film was conceived to give voice to migrant workers in Qatar and allow them to tell their own stories. We followed one team playing in the football tournament, and focused on five protagonists from the team:
Kenneth, 21, Ghana
A recruiting agent in Ghana told Kenneth that he’d be coming to Qatar to join a professional football club. After Kenneth arrived in the country, he realized his agent lied. While Kenneth works construction, he still dreams of playing professional football. He hopes to catch the eye of a scout while playing in The Workers Cup so he can escape the camp.
Paul, 21, Kenya
Surrounded by 4000 men, and working a job that keeps him in the camp seven days a week, Paul is struggling with loneliness in this distant land. He dreams of meeting a girl and falling in love.
Umesh, 36, India
Umesh came to Qatar with a simple dream: to earn enough money to build his own home. Until he accomplishes this, he’ll live separated from his wife and two sons, who are named Rooney and Robin after the Manchester United stars.
Padam, 28, Nepal
After 8 years of failing to get around Qatari laws that prohibit him from bringing his wife to Qatar, Padam now has to decide if he should stay and earn, or return to Nepal to be with his wife.
Samuel, 24, Ghana
A talented goalkeeper, Samuel played in the 1st Division in Ghana but he still couldn’t make ends meet. He came to Qatar to work construction, but out of pride he lied and told his father that he was coming to play professional football.
Behind the camera
We are a team of award-winning film makers from around the world but with a sharp focus on telling the stories of the Middle East and North Africa to the world.
We were all residents of Qatar - part of the ninety per cent who live there who were not citizens of the country. We were engaged in making films and also news and current affairs there and in the region. The story of the workers was all around but so hard to access except in the most superficial way.
This tournament for the workers was a unique opportunity to spend some real time with these men. We picked a team and followed their tales of hope, failed ambition and loneliness across years. Their stories speak for so many other migrant workers around the world, not just in Qatar.
We were helped by SO many along the way so this handful of names by no means reflects the people that made this film possible.
Director / Adam Sobel
Producer / Ramzy Haddad
Producer / Rosie Garthwaite
Editors / Lauren Wellbrock, Anne Jünemann, Adam Sobel
SUNDANCE - January 2017 - USA
World Premiere - Opening night - Thursday, January 19, 9:30 p.m.
Egyptian Theatre, Park City
Friday, January 20, 8:30 a.m.
Prospector Square Theatre, Park City
Friday, January 20, 6:00 p.m.
Sundance Mountain Resort Screening Room, Sundance Resort
Monday, January 23, 9:00 p.m.
Salt Lake City Library Theatre, Salt Lake City
Wednesday, January 25, 10:00 p.m.
Redstone Cinema 2, Park City
Friday, January 27, 3:00 p.m.
Temple Theatre, Park City
Sydney Film Festival - June 2017 - Australia
- Sunday, 11th of June - 10:30am - Event Cinemas George Street
- Sunday, 18th of June - 02:05pm - Dendy Opera Quays Cinema
Australian Premiere at the Sydney Film Festival. Screenings of The Workers Cup preceded by short doc Great Muy Bien.
Human rights watch FF - June 2017 - NYC, USA
- Thursday, 15th of June - 07:00pm - IFC Centre + Q&A with Director/Panel Discussion
- Friday, 16th of June - 09:15pm - IFC Centre + Q&A with Director/Panel Discussion
New York premiere of The Workers Cup. Both screenings followed by Q&A with director Adam Sobel and a panel discussion with Rola Abimourched, Manager, Investments, Humanity United, and Minky Worden, Director of Global Initiatives, Human Rights Watch.
EAST END Film festival - June 2017 - london, UK
- SOLD OUT: Friday, 16th of June - 08:45pm - RICH MIX + Q&A with Producers
London premiere of The Workers Cup. Screening followed by Q&A with Producers Rosie Garthwaite and Ramzy Haddad as well as a panel discussion.
Sheffield Doc/Fest - June 2017 - UK
- Saturday, 10th of June - 9:00pm - PBS America Showroom 3 + Discussion
- Monday, 12th of June - 6:15pm - The Light Screen 3
- Tuesday, 13th of June- 8:00pm - FREE SCREEN Tudor Square
UK premiere in the Doc/Expose Strand at Sheffield International Documentary Festival. 10th of June Screening followed by discussion.
Ayam Beirut Al Cinema'iya - March 2017 - Beirut
The Workers Cup is being screened for the first time in the Arab World followed by a Q&A with Producer Ramzy Haddad and DOP Joe Saadeh.
Tickets available at Cinema Box Office.
CPH:DOX* - MARCH 2017 - DENMARK
- March 16th - 4 pm - Korsgadehallen: Community pre-screening
About the event: The two legendary Copenhagen football clubs, Boldklubben Frem and Brønshøj Football Club - known especially for being very traditional working class clubs - will follow up this community screening with their own football match, playing for the CPH:DOX trophy! The match will be live commented by legendary Danish sports commentator, Carsten Werge. After both the screening, the football match and the trophy ceremony, we'll serve a classical Middle Eastern tapas for the audience.
- March 20th - 5 pm - Nordisk Film Dagmar: European premiere w/ Q&A
Premiere screening with follow up Q&A w/ Director, Adam Sobel and Producer, Rosie Garthwaite
- March 22nd - 7 pm - Grand Teatret: Screening w/ debate
Screening with a follow up debate.
Jesper Møller (Danish sports leader, who since March 1st 2014 has been chairman of the Danish Football Association, DBU)
Jan Jensen (sports commentator at Ekstra Bladet, one of Denmark's biggest daily sports papers)
Søren Bang (journalist with Play the Game, an international conference and communication initiative aiming to strengthen the ethical foundation of sport and promote democracy, transparency and freedom of expression in sport)
Trine Christensen (general secretary of Amnesty International Denmark)
The debate will be moderated by Danish Radio sports journalist, Rasmus Horskjær.
Hawai'i European Cinema - March 2017 - USA
Centerpiece Film of the Hawai'i European Cinema Festival. Screening followed by Q&A with Director Adam Sobel. All screenings are offered free to the community by the festival.
Arab Film Days - April 2017 - norway
Norwegian premiere at the country's only film festival exclusively screening films from and about the Arab world. Screening followed by panel discussion.
Vilnius Film Festival - April 2017 - LiThuania
Vilnius International Film Festival (Vilnius IFF) “Kino Pavasaris” is the largest cinema event in Lithuania.
It's all true - April 2017 - Brazil
Screened in the International Competition for Feature and Medium-length at It's All True Documentary Film Festival.
Hot docs - April/May 2017 - Canada
Canadian premiere in the Special Presentations Section at Hot Doc International Documentary Festival. Screenings followed by Q&A with director Adam Sobel.
docs against gravity - Poland
The Workers Cup is presented in the "Docs for Humans" section of Docs Against Gravity.
Taoyuan Film Festival - May 2017 - Taiwan
Screened in the "Documenting Asia" Programme which intends to "present a fuller picture of the most pressing social issues and challenges that people face in contemporary Asian societies." - Taoyuan Film Festival
doc edge - May 2017 - New Zealand
New Zealand premiere of The Workers Cup in Wellington and Auckland. Screenings in the presence of Editor Lauren Wellbrock.