With the FIFA World Cup 2022 around the corner lets us dribble down to some history and how the FIFA World Cup has an Indian connection. This story of how Indian migrant workers who perished in Qatar for work and gifted the game of football to the country gets interesting.
Rolling 75 years back and this Twitter thread on the Indian connection with the FIFA World Cup tells us a lot about how Indians managed to introduce football in Qatar. This story also points out the extreme conditions that Indian migrant workers worked in.
This tale is narrated by Tom Clayton, a 92-year-old former BP employee. He first arrived in Dukhan in 1948, the industrial city that is marked as the peninsula’s first significant oil reserve.
The tiny Gulf state in 1948 and the people there had never seen a soccer match being played. Their favourite pastime was the ancient sport of camel racing – a fiercely contested game that dates back to Medieval times.
Until the time when gulf countries saw a gradual increase in recruiting migrant workers from India and things changed completely. Along with Clayton a group of around 75 Indian workers from Mumbai also arrived in Doha by boat.
Indian migrant workers did not have the best living and working conditions in the Gulf, and the British officers frequently treated them unfairly. Despite all the challenges, there are always stories to be told.
Soon after, the Indian workers who had free time between their shifts started kicking the ball around the desert fields outside the facility. And this led to football becoming the favorite pastime for Indian workers and British oil officers. Together they built game rules and started competitive matches.
It was between 1951 to 1953, the British and Indian employees for Petroleum development started organising cups and leagues. The winners were presented with their trophies by George Hesledin, the general manager who financed the matches.
Clayton also shared how Indians had to face bias and were not allowed to do a lot of things.
The British were allowed to drink alcohol, but nobody else was, and one of our lawyers resigned in protest when he found out that Indian workers were not allowed to join us for company.
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