Democratic football party

WHEN Russia and Saudi Arabia kicked-off the World Cup, the game was not just between the two lowest ranked countries in FIFA’s rankings, it was also a meeting of the two nations with the worst rating for political freedom among the 32 participants.

According to the Freedom House annual survey (, Russia and Saudi Arabia scored 7, representing the lowest level of freedom. The next worst was Egypt and Iran, who both scored 6.

Such statistics add fuel to the argument that, with a poor record for human rights and a history of political suppression, Russia should not have been awarded the FIFA World Cup in the first place. The 2022 hosts, Qatar, score 6 for political freedom and are lowly ranked in terms of democracy and press freedom.

Russia is also among the most corrupt countries, ranked 111th in World Audit’s table and the 30th worst out of the countries competing in the World Cup finals. Only Nigeria has a poorer reputation.

Press freedom is also lacking in Russia and is way behind Western European countries. Russia is ranked 133rd and among the finalists, only Saudi Arabia (140th) and Iran (147th) are lower.

In terms of overall democracy, Russia, Egypt and Iran have the lowest rating among the 32 nations. Unsurprisingly, the countries with the highest level of democracy are Denmark (2nd), Sweden (3rd) and Switzerland (5th). The U.K. is ranked 11th, Germany 10th.

Photo: Maarten CC-BY-2.0

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