Going beyond the headlines of Qatar’s controversial bid for the 2022 FIFA tournament, The Worker’s Cup focuses on a very different but by no means less compelling competition, that of the workers building the stadiums.
According to the film constituting more than half of Qatar’s population yet comparatively lesser space or wealth, the workers, many of African and Asian backgrounds, live in enclosures and tents, working six and often seven days a week for twelve-hour shifts to construct the footpaths and grounds ahead of the Cup. When relieved from work, the documentary zeros in on the lives and aspirations of a few of the camps’ residents, as well as their supervisors and collective effort to stage a soccer tournament between the workers which soon captures a great deal of their attention.
Not delving too significantly into the most negative headlines that have dogged the competition and its hosts, The Worker’s Cup is at its best when depicting the matches staged; up close and personal for the rapturous applause and joy whenever a goal is scored that would even rival a Man United wipe-out of Arsenal at Old Trafford. Too delving into the planning for matches, the negotiations with superiors and what the sport means for individuals who are and have always been driven by the game, the many emotional portraits of players are varied and impactful.
Outlining several players, teams and their matches, the focus and frequent jumps between all too many, if occasionally confusing, does provide an involving overview of many of the workers’ current circumstances and what winning, or even participating in a tournament such as this means to them, something ably captured by the filmmakers who have been granted intimate access to their lives.
Still taking time to broadly focus on a deciding match, the snapshot The Worker’s Cup provides is engaging cinema for its finite depiction of circumstances very much of current relevance that, as made evident by the filmmakers, may soon be the subject of even greater scrutiny, for which we have here been afforded a small yet arresting piece.
The Worker’s Cup is screening at the Sydney Film Festival