The FIFA World Cup is a global even attended by thousands and watched by millions. The goal of the games is to unite the world by gathering together to play football (soccer). This year, the games were held in Qatar, the first Arab nation to host the World Cup and immigration was a primary topic of conversation among fans and officials alike.

A Brief Look at the World Cup

The World Cup began in 1930, and only 5% of all players were foreign-born. Since the founding, the percentage of foreign-born players has risen to over 11% in recent years. This year, nearly 17% of all players were from a different country than the one they represented.

Players from around the world shared poignant moments that highlight the importance and effects of immigration. Achraf Hakimi, born in Madrid to Moroccan parents, scored a winning penalty against Spain. Swiss player, Breel Embolo an immigrant from Cameroon scored a crucial goal for Switzerland and helped his team advance.

Part of the change is due to rule changes in 2020. Prior to the changes, players had to meet certain eligibility and residency requirements before they could play for a national team. Now, a player would be cap-tied for a team switch after playing three games after turning 21. This means that regardless of nationality, a player may play for a team under these requirements without worrying about ultra-strict residency requirements.

The reason the number of immigrant players has increased is due to ancestral connections, soccer-based migration, and natural migration. Countries colonized by European powers may have more of an influx of players and vice versa. This year, many players played for countries in which they have never lived.

The Other Side

While the general migration and intermingling of players is a great way to build talent, another reason why immigration was critical to the 2022 games had little to do with voluntary migration. There was a great deal of controversy surrounding the decision to hold the World Cup in Qatar.

One of the primary concerns, was related to the construction of the stadium. Early on in construction, there were claims that the government was importing migrant workers to do back-breaking manual labor for little to no compensation. The human rights claims stated that these workers were essentially slaves and many asked FIFA to respond.

The organization offered to remedy the situation by establishing a Fund that would be a source of compensation. However, there are still no concrete policies that would protect migrant workers and prevent Human rights violations.


The FIFA World Cup is a celebration of what unites us – competition and pride. It is also a representation of immigration on the whole. In the United States, immigrants have great opportunities, but also face tremendous obstacles. Exploitation is at every turn and for many migrants, the hardship they endure in the U.S. is a far better alternative to what they would go through at home.

Immigration is a complicated issue, and without legal support, you may find yourself in trouble. Contact Smith Law Offices, LLC today to find out how we can advocate for you.

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