You won't find any international stars in a new set of soccer cards tied to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Instead, these "Cards of Qatar" profile Madhu Bollapally, Ghal Singh Rai, Abu Hashem, Dorine Wangare and more than a dozen other unfamiliar names.
Tragically, each was among the thousands of migrant laborers from South Asian countries who were injured or killed working construction and other jobs in the run-up to the tournament.
So far, more than 30 cards have been produced by investigative journalism platform Blankspot and agency Forsman & Bodenfors, with more on the way each day until the Cup kicks off in Doha this November.
"Together with a team of local journalists in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, we collected stories of migrant workers directly from the families and widows they left behind," says Martin Schibbye, chief editor and co-founder of Blankspot. "I think it's our responsibility to get to know these people and their stories."
That group says upwards of 6,500 workers have perished building or upgrading stadiums, roads, hotels and airports in the decade since FIFA picked Qatar's capital to host the Cup. Sadly, the number of deaths may be considerably higher, as statistics don't cover workers from territories including the Philippines and several nations in Africa.
"To present these stories with dignity, we focused on a high level of craftsmanship and designed a handmade box of textile fiber that holds 33 cards," says Forsman art director Staffan Lamm. "The graphics were inspired by the World Cup 2022 to create a visual connection as if these were the official cards [commemorating the event]."
To raise awareness and drive change, Blankspot will send the cards and boxes to FIFA execs, influencers, sponsors and members of the media.
Blow-ups of the cards appeared in a recent Stockholm activation:
And this mini-doc brings the situation into heartbreaking focus:
The campaign also includes a digital extension from Forza, allowing the soccer app's 3 million users to tweet at football stars and others in the global sports community about the issue.
For its part, the Qatar government says it has made health and safety reforms in recent years and notes that all foreign national can access free healthcare. "The mortality rate among these communities is within the expected range for the size and demographics of the [guest worker] population," per officials. "However, every lost life is a tragedy, and no effort is spared in trying to prevent every death in our country."