His name was John Njau Kibue.
He was a 24-year-old from Kenya and he worked as a security guard at the Lusail Stadium, the venue for the 2022 World Cup final.
He fell from a substantial height at the stadium — with some reports suggesting it was from as high as the eighth floor — after Argentina had beaten the Netherlands on penalties in the quarter-final on Friday, December 9.
He was treated for head, facial and pelvic injuries at Doha’s Hamad Medical Hospital and spent three days in intensive care before he died on Tuesday, December 13.
His family were informed and then, after receiving questions from The Athletic and other media outlets later on Tuesday, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy put out a statement confirming Kibue’s death.
“Qatar’s tournament organizers are investigating the circumstances leading to the fall as a matter of urgency and will provide further information pending the outcome of the investigation,” it said.
On Saturday, the Supreme Committee’s initial statement after it emerged he had been taken to hospital had struck a similar tone. “The host country is investigating the circumstances as a matter of urgency,” it said.
Yet, more than a week on, with Argentina and France preparing to contest the final at the same stadium, there are still more questions than answers about how a second migrant worker died during this tournament.
Kibue’s death came a week after it emerged a man — a Filipino known as Alex who was believed to be in his forties — had died at the training resort used by the Saudi Arabian team during the group stage.
The Qatar World Cup’s chief executive Nasser Al Khater responded to a question about his death by telling reporters that “death is a natural part of life”, as well as saying journalists shouldn’t “bang on” about the topic.
“We’re in the middle of a World Cup and we’re having a successful World Cup and this is something you want to talk about right now?” he said on December 8.
There may well be other workers who have perished over the last month, at World Cup sites or in the wider city, and we may never know who they were or how they died.
Human Rights Watch has said the correct number of migrant worker deaths linked to the World Cup will never be known because “Qatari authorities have failed to investigate the causes of deaths of thousands of migrant workers, many of which are attributed to ‘natural causes’. “
Others have died during the tournament too. Three journalists — Khalid al-Misslam, Roger Pearce and Grant Wahl — have passed away during the tournament and there are books of condolence in media areas for colleagues to pay their respects. A 62-year-old Wales supporter, Kevin Davies, also died in Qatar.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino may think “fans just want to spend 90 minutes without having to think of anything else, forget their problems and enjoy football” but not everyone is that lucky.
A picture has emerged of a young man who moved to Doha in November 2021 to provide support for his family back in Kenya.
Kibue’s mother, Grace Nyambura, told CNN: “He used to tell me, mum, you helped me while I was jobless, I want to help you as much as I can, I know you pray for me.”
“We are very heartbroken,” Kibue’s sister Anne Wanjiru told Kenya’s The Standard earlier this week. “We want answers on the circumstances of his death. We don’t know where to start. It is very painful, they should help us.
“We hear he had worked for long hours. The clarity of how he fell is not coming out… We want justice.”
The use of ‘they’ appears to refer to the Supreme Committee, Kibue’s employers Al Sraiya Security Services and the Kenyan Embassy in Doha, which is aware of the incident and assisting the authorities.
The Supreme Committee and Al Sraiya Security Services did not respond when asked by The Athletic for an update on the “investigation” into the circumstances which led to Kibue’s fall.
The Supreme Committee’s statement on Saturday said Kibue would “continue to receive his salary in full while receiving medical care” and Tuesday’s added: “We will also ensure that his family receives all outstanding dues and monies owed.”
“For us as a family — definitely, we want some answers,” Samuel Njau, Kibue’s uncle, told Reuters. “It has been so unfortunate and devastating for us as a family.”
The Lusail Stadium is a beautiful, delicate-looking 89,000-seat area that is particularly stunning when lit up at night in the style of a traditional Arab lantern, a fanar.
It is in a new suburb to the north of Doha, set against an industrial backdrop with a boulevard of restaurants and a space for families to stroll at dusk. Outside of a matchday, however, it can hardly be described as bustling with activity.
As it was being prepared to host the World Cup final this week, security guards were at work outside the stadium’s perimeter.
One worker said he knew Kibue but could not talk about him. Another the next day said the same. A third said he knew him as well but has been told not to speak.
Some work for the same company as Kibue did. Others talked about separate incidents at Lusail which have left workers needing medical treatment. They do not know more about what happened to Kibue, or when his funeral might be able to take place. They were all understandably nervous about speaking.
They also still have a job to do on Sunday in a stadium in which a colleague has died in as yet unexplained circumstances.
Has safety guidance been reviewed? Have workers been issued with new or refreshed guidance? Have they been offered any support?
The Supreme Committee and Al Sraiya Security Services did not respond to questions from The Athletic.
The “industrial fan zone” was very busy on Wednesday, December 14, when France faced Morocco in the second semi-final. This is an area to watch World Cup matches which is close to where many labor workers are housed in dormitories of between four and 12 men at a time.
This part of Doha is called Asian Town. It is not easily connected by the metro that has carried supporters to and from stadiums and the city center during this World Cup but it where many workers have consumed matches. They do not have the required “Hayya Card” permit to access other fan zones.
Men were enjoying watching Morocco’s progress and it felt rude to intrude.
On the first Saturday of the tournament, November 26, at the industrial fan zone, however, The Athletic had found Kenyan workers the most willing to share their experiences. Many of them had arrived more recently than their Bangladeshi or Nepali counterparts and they seemed more prepared to challenge working conditions and payments.
Their criticism was reserved more strongly for Kenyan companies that had exploited the workers with the misleading promise of big salaries in return for recruitment fees to travel to Qatar. They backed up their complaints with paperwork proving their point.
Following Kibue’s death, several of these workers reached out to The Athletic detailing the security company that had employed him and also asking questions about the circumstances of his death.
One, who wished not to be named to protect his job, said: “It’s really sad to see such a sudden death of a young man just trying to make it in life. It really seems very strange to me. I really hope the authorities will come up with clear information.”
Asked if the workers have faith in a transparent process, he added: “Not really. But I really feel Kenyans here and at home will want answers.”
Additional contributor: Adam Leventhal
(Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Further reading on The Athletic…