The 2022 men’s World Cup starts Sunday with 32 teams vying for soccer’s ultimate prize. With the event in Qatar — a horrible place for LGBTQ people — and with no openly gay players this is not an event that one can watch without mixed feelings.
To make it easier for LGBTQ fans to decide who to root for, I have put together a guide based on the LGBTQ rights (or lack of) and conditions for all 32 countries in the event. Technically, it’s 31 countries since Wales and England are separate teams but are part of the United Kingdom, but we’re going with the 32 teams for clarity’s sake since that’s the number of teams.
I have grouped the 32 teams in terms of how their countries treat LGBTQ people based on rights, threats and punishment. The rankings are compiled from data from Equaldex LGBT Equality Index, Human Rights Watch, LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index and 2022 ILGA-Europe. For these purposes a ranking of 20 is treated roughly the same as a ranking of 10 or 30.
Countries are listed alphabetically within each group.
DEATH (OR PRISON) TO THE GAYS GROUP
These World Cup countries — including host Qatar — have abysmal to horrifying conditions for LGBTQ people, with some literally deadly. Anyone who cares about human rights can’t root for these teams.
Equality index score: 170 (out of 198 countries)
A big ugh as there are zero rights for LGBTQ people, who face a wave of abuse and arrests. “Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Cameroon and LGBT people face stigmatization among the broader population. As of 2020, Cameroon ‘currently prosecutes consensual same sex conduct more aggressively than almost any country in the world.’” The penalty for same-sex relations is five years in prison.
Equality index score: 160 (out of 198 countries)
The situation is very bleak in Ghana, which offers zero protections and where 96% of the population disapproves of being LGBTQ. The Equality Index says: “Homosexuality is illegal. As well physical and violent homophobic attacks against LGBT people are common, often encouraged by the media and religious and political leaders. Reports of young gay people being kicked out of their homes are also common.”
Equality index score: 192 (out of 198 countries)
Same-sex relations are illegal, and being caught results in the death penalty for mature men and 74 lashes for immature men (although there are documented cases of minors executed because of their sexual orientation). For women, the punishment is 100 lashes for women of mature sound mind and if consenting and the death penalty after the fourth conviction. Bottom line: If you are openly gay in Iran, you will be killed. In September, according to the BBC, “two LGBT activists have been sentenced to death in Iran, rights groups say. A court in Urmia found Zahra Seddiqi Hamedani, 31, and Elham Choubdar, 24, guilty of ‘corruption on Earth.’”
Equality index score: 159 (out of 198 countries)
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal and punishable by three to five years in prison and LGBTQ people have no legal rights. “The latest LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index by Asher & Lyric has ranked Morocco as the 30th most unsafe country worldwide for LGBTQ+ travelers, a reflection of the North African country’s strict laws and policies against the LGBTQ+ community.” (Morocco World News).
Equality index score: 183 (out of 198 countries
The host country is a disaster for LGBTQ people and openly hostile. Penalties vary in Qatar for same-sex relations. Non-Muslims are punished with fines and up to seven years imprisonment, and Muslims are punished with the maximum being stoning to death.
Equality index score: 178 (out of 198 countries)
Same-sex relations are illegal, with the penalty is one to five years imprisonment. Very bleak for LGBTQ people here with 96% of people in one poll disapproving of LGBTQ people.
Equality index score: 198 (out of 198 countries)
Saudi Arabia ranks last and is the worst place in the world for LGBTQ people. Saudi Arabia is one of six U.N. member states where the death penalty is the legally prescribed punishment for consensual same-sex sexual acts (the others are Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria (12 Northern states only) and Yemen. For LGBTQ travelers, only three countries are considered less safe than Saudi Arabia.
Equality index score: 168 (out of 198 countries)
Same-sex relations are illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison.
DON’T ASK DON’T TELL GROUP
This group is a mixed bag for LGBTQ rights. None of these countries allow same-sex marriage and the culture often disapproves of being gay. Yet there are not overt state-sanctioned threats to same-sex relations where prison (or worst) is the punishment and many LGBTQ people live openly. In addition, many LGBTQ travelers visit these places each year and enjoy them. Rooting for these countries is a total personal preference.
Equality index score: 67 (out of 198 countries)
Same-sex marriage is illegal under the constitution but same-sex legal unions are allowed. The country is in the middle of pack on the LGBTQ rights in Europe, ranked 20th out of 49 countries in the 2022 ILGA-Europe rankings in regards for full equality for LGBTQ people. Croatia nonetheless has become a popular destination for LGBTQ travelers.
Equality index score: 48 (out of 198 countries)
”Japan lags far behind its rich-world peers in LGBTQ rights; it’s the only country in the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations that doesn’t fully recognize same-sex partnerships. Japanese law also requires transgender people to be surgically sterilized if they want legal recognition of their gender identity.” Same-sex marriage is not legal yet a 2021 poll showed 69% support such unions and 6% oppose.
Equality index score: 92 (out of 198 countries)
Same-sex marriage is not legal. According to a report by an European LGBTQ group “the status of LGBTQ rights in Poland is the worst among European Union countries.” From Reuters: “Numerous local authorities in Poland passed resolutions in 2019 declaring themselves free of “LGBT ideology”, part of a conflict in the predominantly Catholic country between liberals and religious conservatives, who see the struggle for gay rights as a threat to traditional values.”
Equality index score: 105 (out of 198 countries)
Same-sex marriage is not legal and 67% of people in a 2021 survey said same-sex activity could not be justified, versus 12% who support it. Overall, not a great environment but also not awful, with Serbia ranking 23rd out of 49 countries in the 2022 ILGA-Europe rankings in regards for full equality for LGBTQ people. It gets a C grade as a safe place for LGBTQ travelers.
Equality index score: 84 (out of 198 countries)
Not a good environment for LGBTQ people with polls showing 80% not wanting LGBTQ people as neighbors and where same-sex marriage is illegal. South Korea is reflective of a lot Asia, where being LGBTQ is not accepted in traditionally conservative societies. As the Washington Post reported in May: “While many developed nations grapple with systemic discrimination and gender imbalance in the workplace, South Korea — one of the lowest-ranking developed economies for gender equality — has a particularly long way to go. Homosexuality is still a taboo in South Korea, though there has been some progress.”
The good news is that the 18 countries with the best records on LGBTQ rights make up a majority of World Cup teams. Things aren’t perfect from country to country on LGBTQ issues, but all allow same-sex marriage and are places where LGBTQ can live openly for the most part. Feel free to root for these countries with abandon.
Equality index score: 14 (out of 198 countries)
Same-sex relations and marriage ae legal. In 2010, Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legalize gay marriage.
Equality index score: 12 (out of 198 countries)
Australia lagged behind many countries in allowing same-sex marriage, finally doing so in 2017, but it is one of the best places in the world for LGBTQ people.
Equality index score: 28 (out of 198 countries)
Belgium ranks third out of 49 countries in the 2022 ILGA-Europe rankings in regards for full equality for LGBTQ people.
Equality index score: 19 (out of 198 countries)
Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2013 and has widespread support, making Brazil one of the most advanced in Latin America for LGBTQ people. The defeat of virulent homophobe Jair Bolsonaro for president is a big deal. Yet a recent report found: “In Brazil, LGBTQ people are disproportionately harassed and victimized precisely because of who they are. One reason is the deep strain of social conservatism in Brazilian society.”
Equality index score: 3 (out of 198 countries)
Canada scores the highest out of the 32 World Cup countries on the Equality Index, which is no surprise. Go, Canada!
Equality index score: 35 (out of 198 countries)
Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2020 and the country is seen as a model for LGBTQ rights in the region. “Costa Rica was the first country in Central America to recognize and perform same-sex marriages.” (Equaldex). A majority (65% to 35%) disapprove of same-sex marriage, according to a 2021 poll. At the same time, 100,000 people turned out for a 2020 Pride parade, including the country’s president.
Equality index score: 6 (out of 198 countries)
How progressive is Denmark on LGBTQ rights? “In Denmark, same-sex sexual activity was legalized in 1933, and since 1977, the age of consent has been equally set to 15, regardless of sexual orientation or gender. Denmark was the first country in the world to grant legal recognition to same-sex unions in the form of registered partnerships in 1989. On 7 June 2012, the law was replaced by a new same-sex marriage law, which came into effect on 15 June 2012.” Denmark ranks second in the 2022 ILGA-Europe rankings in regards for full equality for LGBTQ people (Malta is first)
52 (out of 198 countries)
Same-sex marriage is legal as is changing gender and serving in military. Ecuador also bans conversion therapy. Ecuador has advanced in terms of LGBTQ rights in recent years. It’s another South American country that has made great strides.
Equality index score: 27 (out of 198 countries)
France has broad protections for LGBTQ people, including same-sex marriage and adoption. France ranks seventh in the 2022 ILGA-Europe (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Assn.) rankings in regards for full equality for LGBTQ people.
Equality index score: 10 (out of 198 countries)
Anyone who has been to Berlin knows how LGBTQ-friendly the country and people are; one of the best places in the world for LGBTQ people. Germany ranks 15th out of 49 countries in the 2022 ILGA-Europe rankings in regards for full equality for LGBTQ people.
Equality index score: 30 (out of 198 countries)
Same-sex marriage is legal and LGBTQ rights are protected and it ranks among the top 50 nations for LGBTQ travelers. There is still homophobia, though, among a segment of fans who chant the gay slur “puto” at opposing players.
Equality index score: 9 (out of 198 countries)
It was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage (2001). The Netherlands ranks third in the world for safety for LGBTQ travelers. Root for the Orange with gusto.
Equality index score: 33 (out of 198 countries)
LGBTQ rights have improved greatly in the past 20 years and are now among the best in the world (for example, its constitution bans LGBTQ discrimination). Portugal ranks ninth out of 49 countries in the 2022 ILGA-Europe rankings in regards for full equality for LGBTQ people. Having Cristiano Ronaldo take off his shirt is a bonus for fans of any orientation.
Equality index score: 15 (out of 198 countries)
Spain is one of the best places in the world for LGBTQ people. For example, a 2021 poll found 84% support same-sex marriage with only 5% opposed. Spain ranks 10th out of 49 countries in the 2022 ILGA-Europe rankings in regards for full equality for LGBTQ people.
Equality index score: 22 (out of 198 countries)
Switzerland ranks 19th out of 49 countries in the 2022 ILGA-Europe rankings in regards for full equality for LGBTQ people. Same-sex marriage was approved by the voters in 2021 and took effect this year. Switzerland is easy to root for.
Equality index score: 13 (out of 198 countries)
Same-sex marriage is legal and there are widespread protections for LGBTQ people, though there is no national policy banning employment or housing discrimination. Protections vary among states and there has been a raft of laws in many states targeting transgender people.
United Kingdom, which includes teams from England and Wales
Equality index score: 11 (out of 198 countries)
Same-sex marriage is legal and widespread protections for LGBTQ people. However, the UK dropped in a European LGBTQ ranking: “The United Kingdom is the country with the most dramatic drop in its score, losing 11% points in relation to the equality body mandate’s ineffective and non-systematic work on sexual orientation and gender identity and equality action plan not being renewed or implemented.”
Equality index score: 4 (out of 198 countries)
Among World Cup countries, Uruguay ranks only behind Canada in overall LGBTQ rights. Same sex marriage has been legal for nearly 10 years and LGBTQ have a wide range of protections and the public very LGBTQ-positive. In 2016, Americas Quarterly named Uruguay the most LGBT-friendly country in Latin America, calling the nation “a model for social inclusion in Latin America.” (Wikipedia). Root with abandon for Uruguay.
Here are the 2022 World Cup groups:
Group A: Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands
Group B: England, Iran, USA, Wales
Group C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland
Group D: France, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia
Group E: Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, Japan
Group F: Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia
Group G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon
Group H: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea