Low-income workers are set to lose out from a slew of surprising knockouts in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers
Soccer-loving nations count losses of failing to qualify
Small businesses and informal workers set to be hard-hit
Some traders face losses on merchandise investments
Colombian food vendor William Abella had been counting on the World Cup 2022 as an opportunity to offset his losses from long COVID-19 lockdowns.
When the national team plays, his small corner shop and snack bar in central Bogota usually turns into a sea of yellow as football fans wearing the squad’s official shirt gather to drink and chat, lifting beer sales by up to 80%.
But like many small traders in footballing countries that unexpectedly failed to qualify, his hopes for bumper business from fans cheering on their side have been dashed.
“With Colombia out of the World Cup, I’m expecting my beer sales to decrease by about half,” said 65-year-old Abella.
The World Cup, which is being hosted by Qatar and kicks off in November, is big business, generating billions of dollars in consumer spending in tourism, food and drink, merchandise and more.
But as businesses across the world gear up to cash in, developing countries known for their football prowess – yet which failed to qualify – are counting their losses.
From street vendors in Colombia to shopkeepers in Algeria and owners of football viewing halls in Nigeria, small businesses and informal workers who rely on cash-in-hand earnings during football matches fear a big decline in income.
In north Bogota, street vendor Roberto Teyes sold and traded stickers for the Panini football album during the last World Cup, hosted by Russia in 2018.
“There’ll be less interest in collecting stickers as the Colombian team won’t be in the album,” said Teyes, adding he earned up to $130 in a day in sticker sales.
“I’d hoped for a good end to the year. I really needed it after COVID,” he said.
Merchants’ association Fenalco estimated the team’s knockout at a qualifier match in March would result in economic losses of about $810 million, mainly due to impacts on merchandise sellers, bars, cafes, and travel agencies.
“Colombia’s elimination from the World Cup brings serious consequences for the country’s commerce and tourism,” said Fenalco President Jaime Alberto Cabal.
In the 2018 World Cup, when Colombia reached the last 16, Fenalco members reported a nearly 40% rise in beer sales, 20% in spirits, 19% in TV screens and 12% in soft drinks.
In Nigeria, another football-mad nation and home to Africa’s largest population, David Anomweh, who runs a sportswear stall in the commercial capital Lagos, is also in the doldrums.
Much-fancied Nigeria – who have appeared in six of the previous seven World Cups – also failed to qualify for Qatar, leaving millions of fans bereft.
The Super Eagles’ shock defeat to staunch rival Ghana last week not only led to riots by angry fans who stormed the pitch, but has left some businesses and traders reeling.
From shops to cafes, business owners in Lagos had expected to make good profits, and some had already made investments on the presumption the national team would qualify.
“My dad already ordered 50 Nigerian jerseys hoping to begin to sell them if Nigeria qualified,” said Anomweh, manager of Ugo Ways Sports in Lagos’s bustling Yaba market.
“Now Nigerian jerseys in the market are totally useless,” said Anomweh, adding the order had cost 250,000 Naira ($602).
Owners of Nigeria’s popular football viewing halls – large spaces with giant screens where people can pay a fee to watch matches – also complained about revenue losses.
“It’s painful because Nigerians like to watch Nigeria matches compared to club matches,” said Jide Joseph, owner of a hall with a capacity of 80 people in Fadeyi, a suburb of Lagos.
Joseph, who has been running the business for 20 years, said he was expecting full capacity for Nigeria games and had expected to earn 10,000 Naira per match, compared to 700 Naira for other matches.
“Now that Nigeria didn’t qualify, people will not come out to watch other national teams. I will not be able to make any money from any match,” he said.
Remi Ugo, owner of the Blue Spot Cafe, a bar and restaurant in Lagos’ Shomolu suburb, said Nigeria’s failure to qualify would hurt many businesses like his.
“About 80% of my customers come here to drink just to watch matches,” he said.
“(Now) I’m sure people will not turn up much for the World Cup matches.”
In Egypt, home country of Premier League footballer and national hero Mohamed Salah, fans of the beautiful game gather in coffee shops to watch matches.
Moustafa Mehres, a 36-year-old cafe owner in an eastern Cairo neighborhood, said his daily sales double when the national team plays.
“Instead of having 20 customers during the whole day, I get 40 customers in just two hours,” he said.
In another part of the capital, in Cairo’s historic El-Gamaliya neighborhood, clothes shop owner Waleed El Kurdi, 30, had hoped for a bonanza fueled by the tournament in Qatar.
During Egypt’s home match with Senegal in March for a place in the World Cup, sales at El Kurdi’s shop were up by 25% as fans snapped up t-shirts of Salah along with scarfs and flags of the national team, which failed to qualify.
“My sales reached about 2,000 Egyptian pounds ($109) only during the week of the match,” he said.
In the Algerian capital, Algiers, Mohamad Bachouch, 59, faces a similar problem at his small shop after stockpiling Algerian flags, shirts and mugs with the names of national team football players.
“When Algeria got disqualified, tears streamed from my eyes because I knew I had lost a lot,” said Bachouch.
“This means I’ll have to keep them until, maybe, the next World Cup.”
($1 = 18.2900 Egyptian pounds)
($1 = 415.1500 naira)
– Reporting by Anastasia Moloney in Bogota, Kelechukwu Iruoma in Lagos, Menna Farouk in Cairo and Tala Ramadan in Beirut; Editing by Nita Bhalla and Sonia Elks