England suffered their first penalty shootout heartache of the World Cup – when migrant workers who helped build the stadiums notched up a cricket score against them.
Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions invited builders, electricians and health and safety managers involved in the £185bn project to prepare the Gulf state for the tournament to their training base for a kickabout.
Most of the squad turned up to watch the migrants play a game of five-a-side. The England players then took it in turns to go in goal while the workers took penalties.
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Goalkeeper Nick Pope and defender Harry Maguire were the only two to make saves in the friendly shootout as the jubilant builders netted at least 13 goals.
One got a round of applause after hammering the ball past manager Southgate. Afterwards the players presented the workers with signed shirts, mini-footballs and tickets for the opening match against Iran.
Uzair Murtaza, 31, a health and safety manager from Abbottabad, Pakistan, who worked for contractor G4S for four years helping build stadiums, said: "This is a lifetime opportunity.
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"I met Harry Kane and Sterling. I said to them best wishes and best of luck. Today I thought this is a reward for us. I played a very tiny role in building this tournament .
"I hope it is one of the greatest tournaments in world history.’"
Human rights experts claim up to 6,000 migrants died building the infrastructure but the Supreme Committee, which oversaw the project, insists it was just three.
Uzair said as a result of hosting the World Cup new laws had been brought in to `really take care of the welfare’ of all workers.
Ashlin Rafael Jacob (corr), 27, an electrical technician from Kerala, India, who worked on the Al Bayt Stadium where England will play the USA, said close to tears: "I’m a Chelsea fan and loved Frank Lampard and John Terry. To meet England is amazing."
England star Conor Coady said the players "understand the importance" of meeting the workers which was "something we really wanted to do".
"We spoke about this as a team,’’ he said. "We have a really mature group. We are privileged to be where we are. It is a chance to chat with the workers about how the last few months have been and open ourselves up.
"We are focused on football but we also do what we can."
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