Beyond the football, Denmark will win ‘human rights’ World Cup

Qatar’s human rights record has been a burning issue in the run up to the World Cup. Kurt Sansone compiles an alternative ranking of the competing teams based on freedom, human rights and democracy

Qatar’s lavish stadiums built by the hands of migrant labourers will be the stage for the world’s best football players as the World Cup gets underway.

But in the run up to the World Cup, football has had to share the stage with criticism of the host nation’s human rights record.

Beyond the football, there is also a story to be told on the blood, sweat and tears that went into building Qatar’s World Cup infrastructure.

Thousands of migrant workers from poor countries toiled under extreme heat and in poor working conditions to build the stadiums.

Indeed, some of the teams participating in the tournament will be staging their own ‘protests’ in a bid to raise awareness about migrant worker abuse and also Qatar’s treatment of LGBTI+ persons.

Denmark will be wearing toned down jerseys to protest the host nation’s treatment of migrant workers and the country’s human rights record.

England’s captain Harry Kane and eight other skippers will be wearing a rainbow-coloured armband in support of the OneLove anti-discrimination campaign.

The message will be particularly poignant in Qatar, where same-sex relationships and their promotion are criminalised.

Human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, have lobbied FIFA, the world footballing body, to set aside €420 million to support a compensation fund and help establish a migrant workers centre.

But while the guns have been pointed at Qatar as the host nation, the country is not the only one competing in the tournament to have a dismal human rights record.

MaltaToday has compiled its own human rights rankings of the 32 teams competing in the World Cup. Malta has been included for comparison’s sake.

The exercise is intended to give an alternative view of the footballing nations that will grace our television screens for the next month.

The rankings are based on the scores from four indices compiled by reputable international organisations.

The factors included range from political rights to civil liberties; from press freedom to pluralism.

The UN Human Development Index is also used, which measures several social development goals.

Denmark emerges as the winner with a combined score of 373 out of 400, followed by Switzerland with 364 points.

Canada comes in a close third with 362 points and Netherlands fourth with 358 points.

The bottom four are Iran (134 points), Cameroon (147), Saudi Arabia (149) and Qatar (196). These four countries are also the only ones that do not even reach the pass mark (200).

Qatar’s and Saudi Arabia’s scores are boosted by their performance on the UN human development index, which also takes into consideration income per capita apart from other factors. The two rich Arabian Gulf states are among the wealthiest in the world.

The MaltaToday ranking shows that the top 10 ranked countries are all European, apart from Canada and Australia.

Malta would rank 18th with 318 points, sitting just below the US and above Argentina.

The biggest human rights contrast in the group stages is within Group A, where fourthplaced Netherlands will compete against lowly-ranked Qatar (ranked 30), Senegal (28) and Ecuador (25).


The MaltaToday alternative World Cup rankings


What we did to arrive at the final score: MaltaToday took the latest results of four international indices and recalculated the scores over 100. Each of the four scores was added up to give a final result out of 400 for each country.

The indices used:

Freedom in the World Index 2022 (FH GFS)

Freedom in the World is an annual global report on political rights and civil liberties, produced by Freedom House, a US-based advocacy group. It is composed of numerical ratings and descriptive texts for each country and a select group of territories. The scores listed here are out of 100, with 100 being the highest level of freedom.

EIU Democracy Index 2021 (EIU DI)

The Democracy Index is compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, an offshoot of The Economist, a UK-based magazine. The index provides a snapshot of the state of democracy worldwide in 165 independent states and two territories. It is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties. Scores listed here are out of 10, with 10 being the most democratic.

RSF World Press Freedom Index (RSF PFI)

The World Press Freedom Index is compiled by Reporters Without Borders, a media freedom NGO. It compares the level of press freedom enjoyed by journalists and media in 180 countries and territories. Press freedom is defined as the ability of journalists as individuals and collectives to select, produce, and disseminate news in the public interest independent of political, economic, legal, and social interference and in the absence of threats to their physical and mental safety.

UN Human Development Index 2022 (UN HDI)

This index is produced by the UN Development Programme and covers several social development goals ranging from life expectancy to years of schooling, and gross national income per capita. 1 represents the highest score, indicating very high human development.

Find MaltaToday's coverage of the World Cup and our live-centre with match commentary here.