Netherlands vs. Spain: The Immigrant Question

Both La Furia Roja and the Oranje will kit up for a shot at their first ever World Cup titles and it’s hard to tell who might emerge the winner. With both teams never having won the World Cup before, they will be going after the trophy with an equally bloodthirsty zeal. With both teams in peak form, a comparison of their form stacks up pretty evenly too – both won all their qualifying matches for the World Cup, and David Villa and Wesley Sneijder are currently tied for the tournament’s Golden Boot award (although Sneijder has committed 13 fouls in the course of the tournament, while Villa has just two fouls to his name).

Tough to tell who will win? Well, it’s equally tricky to say who I’ll be cheering for come Sunday evening in the spirit of Who Should I Cheer For? – both countries stack up evenly against one another in the statistics as well. While Netherlands does well to set aside over 0.7% of its GDP for aid, Spain has the highest degree of gender equality in government, with 50% of its leadership undertaken by women. If we examine these countries beyond the WSICF? rankings, both countries have an illustrious colonial history as well – both nations had expansive and prosperous empires up until the 20th century. How did these colonial pursuits play out, and what socio-economic legacies have they left in the two countries today?

Both the Dutch and Spanish empires spanned the globe, and resulted in eras of great economic and social growth. However, the process of empire building was inevitably problematic and exploitative. The Spanish infamously brought smallpox and famine to the indigenous populations they colonised, as well as brutal slavery in the plantations and mines whose bounty fuelled their prosperity. Colonial rule under the Dutch was considerably less cruel than under the Spanish, primarily because they occupied their lands primarily through means of strategic trading posts, and commerce treaties. Indeed, the Dutch East India Company (the world’s first multinational corporation) was an unparalleled commercial force, particularly in Asia where the Spice Islands and Indonesia provided numerous export and trading opportunities.

Interestingly, the ancestors of the Oranje are also responsible for the initial conception of modern development policy. Primarily focused on the Dutch East Indies, or modern day Indonesia, this policy recognised the moral imperative to improve the material well-being of the lands from which it had gained such great riches. By introducing education, irrigation technology and transmigration to reduce population pressure on certain areas, the Dutch sought to improve the lives of the people without the over-arching imperatives of culture transfer or recruiting “brown Dutchmen” to aid the Dutch settlers. Despite the fact that this policy came up against significant budget constraints and internal opposition, the intention of the policy was undeniably noble.

Centuries later, how has the dynamic between the Netherlands, Spain and the ex-empire played out? As with the rest of the Western world, both countries are struggling with the multiculturalism and diversity that result from the global migration of people and ideas. On one hand, the immigration pol¬icies that both countries enforce have been the subject of much scrutiny and criticism; on the other, both countries have been subject to violent attacks by people from various immigrant communities.

The 2004 attacks on Madrid’s trains during peak hour left almost 200 people dead, and another 1,800 wounded. When a group of Moroccan terrorists were convicted for the bombings, a wave of Islamophobia swept the nation, putting the already-marginalised Moroccan community in a weakened, powerless position. In a country that has a staunchly Catholic tradition, the Moroccan Muslim community has been characterised by low-skilled labour, a struggle for economic survival, and largely low levels of education amongst the community. In a recent report by Human Rights Watch, incidents of Spain deporting illegal, unaccompanied Moroccan children back across the Straits of Gibraltar into detention centres that leave them open to abuse and exploitation has attracted much international criticism. While it’s no justification for terrorism, the uncertain, insecure and impoverished circumstances low-skilled migrants from Spain’s ex-colonies live in is certainly a fertile breeding ground for resentment against the Spanish.

Netherland’s struggle with multiculturalism and the influx of immigrants from the developing world – countries such as Morocco, Turkey and Indonesia – has also resulted in several controversial outcomes, such as a overseas integration test (that immigrants from the European Economic Area and other prosperous nations such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States do not have to take), which examines factors such as language proficiency and the ability of migrants to support themselves. This discriminatory test makes it very difficult for the families of poor migrants to join them in the Netherlands. In a nation whose respect for love and family life has made it amongst the first in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, this denial of the right to family life for certain migrants seems particularly ironic.

Against a backdrop of violent riots by minority migrant communities in nearby France, as well as high rates of unemployment and immigrant crime reported within Dutch borders, the political tide is shifting towards anti-immigrant legislation and perhaps more importantly, towards hateful and resentful attitudes towards existing communities. Of course, the counter-reaction of these communities only complicates matters further. The murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Moroccan immigrant following the production of Submission, a film that accuses Islam of great cruelty and injustice towards women exemplifies this perfectly. The medium of filmmaking has also been used by the right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders. The anti-Islam sentiments portrayed in his 2008 film Fitna are also echoed in his broader political rhetoric against Muslim immigration into the Netherlands.

Indeed, it’s not difficult to see that migrant disenfranchisement and strict, conservative immigration policies in both Spain and Holland are simply two stages in what seems to be an endless, vicious cycle. One must acknowledge that the situations in these countries are underpinned by broader economic, political and social problems. Questioning how just immigration policies in the Netherlands and Spain is looking at only one side of the coin – what can be done to stem the exodus from unfavourable circumstances in these migrants’ home countries? Issues of migrant rights, the security and safety of a nation and the socio-economic welfare of a country’s citizens are inextricably tangled up with the broader global problems of exploitative and violent colonial legacies, a global tide of religious fundamentalism and its equally problematic counter-measures by Western governments.

It’s hard to say, then, who I’ll be cheering for in this World Cup final. Spain has been a long-standing personal favourite, and I’m reluctant to support Netherlands against them. So I’ll be cheering for a fair, exciting and high-scoring game, for the safeguarding of the rights of the most disenfranchised inhabitants of these countries, and for the gradual, peaceful resolution of the economic, political and religious tensions fragmenting both nations today.

Posted in: Netherlands, Netherlands-Spain, Spain

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

Spain v Germany: Fair Play?

Last night I found myself in the strange position of cheering my heart out for a Dutch team playing in South Africa – given the history of the dreadful Dutch role in apartheid that was something I would have never envisaged happening. But my cheers were really for Ghana, as Holland avenged Uruguay for knocking the wonderful Ghanaians out of the world cup with a deliberate hand ball (yes, I know I should have let go of that by now – I’m working on it).

So tonight, how the six teams (oops, seven if you include Holland) I was following are not playing – who should I cheer for? Spain or Germany.

Well, win-wise they are fairly equal – both teams having lost just one (albeit quite surprising) match each. In terms of social justice indicators they are fairly even too. Both countries give a similar amount in aid (ie for health European economies – not enough). Germany has less carbon emissions than Spain but then Spain’s inequality difference is slightly less than Germany. Hmm.

The only thing is that when Germany won their matches, they really won! Except of course when Ghana managed to limit them to only one goal – sorry, had to get that in. Otherwise it was a clear 4:1 or 4:0 hammering. I would like to say that Spain’s fabulous 50% representation of women in government was a similarly thumping victory which would have helped in my choice dilemma, but actually, Germany aren’t far behind on 46.2% and they have a female Chancellor.

So I’m still undecided. But in a world cup that saw some teams have progress because of unfair decisions and plain cheating I think I’m going to go by something my son told me. He said Spain have been the cleanest team of the world cup with only 3 yellow cards even at this stage. Having been upset at Ghana’s unjust exit (and other more major injustices around the world ranging from bankers’ greed pushing people further into poverty or the ravaging impacts of climate change suffered by people that didn’t even cause it) I think my cheering criteria should be judged by fairness and so I will celebrate with Spain’s in their clean and justified arrival at the semis.

Posted in: Germany, Spain, Spain v Germany

Sharon Jordan is campaigns assistant at WDM. Generally football indifferent, her football passion ignites about this time once every 4 years as the ups and downs of life are played out by global players in 90 minutes on a patch of green grass.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

Paraguay v Spain: Cheering the overdog

A poor developing nation exceeding expectations against an EU powerbroker replete with grotesquely paid Champions League stars.

The duty of a WSCIF? blogger should be self-evident. But I’m less a fan of William of Occam than of Adrian Monk. Why accept the obvious solution when there is a perfectly perverse and convoluted alternative just waiting to be put together?

Spain are the only team to follow in the fourth quarter-final of the 2010 World Cup; now I just need to construct a logical case.

In this age of transparency and accountability, the following interest should be declared: I am a football fan and as such hopelessly biased towards Spain. Art historians can enjoy the superficial joys of the Renaissance to their hearts’ content but Europe has never produced an aesthetic spectacle to match Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Villa working in tandem.

Happily, this blatant conflict of interest does not require justifying propaganda. A closer inspection of the facts reveals Vincente del Bosque’s men really might be the good guys.

Paraguay is the most unequal nation in the World Cup and its low military spending belies a strong naval tradition – 34 surface vessels seems rather high for a landlocked country. Even their creditable 30.8% female representation in government is trumped by Spain, whose 50% is disconcertingly just.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Paraguayans do not even have strong colonial guilt cards to play at this point. Economic irrelevance and geographical distance ensured indifferent Spanish governance virtually from its ‘discovery’. Paraguay has since revelled in its eccentricity, exemplified by their choice of revered national hero, Francisco Solano López.

Solano López was a megalomaniac misogynist dictator who brought Paraguay to the brink of total destruction by instigating the War of the Triple Alliance (1864-70) with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. It’s as if tomorrow Albert II of Monaco sent the troops into France, the air force to Italy and the navy to Algeria with inevitable annihilation – only to be remembered with a national holiday of celebration in his name.

This maverick approach is also evident in their current choice of President: Fernando Lugo, a former Roman Catholic bishop with little political experience. In a single week last year Lugo was the subject of three paternity suits from his time in the church but those remain his most noteworthy headlines. An ambitious redistributive agenda has been repeatedly blocked by other branches of government.

In short, while Paraguay is second in our rankings they are an enigmatic curiosity rather than irresistibly deserving of support.

Spain are not without their faults but a WSICF? ranking of eight, below only the Netherlands among European nations, is an encouraging start. The Zapatero Government is the only centre-left administration in any large EU nation and has an admirable list of legislative achievements: withdrew from troops from Iraq, legalised same-sex marriage, reformed abortion law, reduced inequality and increased Catalonian autonomy. The memory of their election victory amidst Aznar’s ‘3/11 bombing’ manipulation – a nation showing intelligence to defeat fear in a moment of crisis – seals the deal.

And so, back to the football. It shouldn’t matter, of course. In fact it doesn’t. But people come together for the World Cup like for nothing else because at its best it’s magnificent. This Spain team is football at its best and if they were also orphan-eating, gun-toting despots it would still be difficult to hide a sneaking admiration for the way they play the game.

Posted in: Paraguay, Paraguay-Spain QF, Spain

Peter May is the author of The Rebel Tours: Cricket's Crisis of Conscience, the 2009 book that achieved critical praise and commercial indifference.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

Spain v Honduras: red cards for migrant policies

In September 2007, the Spanish ombudsman, a national human rights institution investigated a report into allegations made by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) regarding the mistreatment of child immigrants by the hands of detention centre guards and security forces in the Canary Islands. Over 900 unaccompanied children arrived in the Canary Islands by boat from Africa in 2006. In response, the Islands opened up four emergency centers as a temporary solution. HRW stated that the migrant children ‘do not enjoy access to public education, they have limited opportunity for recreation and leisure, and they are unduly restricted in their freedom of movement’.

The ombudsman found the allegations to be true and that one year after the HRW report, the care of unaccompanied migrant children in the Canary Islands was still unsatisfactory. This was despite efforts to improve the facility with renovations and better structuring of how the children were grouped together. In particular it was found that children in the La Esperanza centre were often housed for up to a year in overcrowded, unsafe, and substandard facilities and detained in police stations upon arrival.

Violating a host of child protection laws, and basic human, not to mention vulnerable child rights, I’d send Spain off for this.  Although I would generally be cheering for Spain and their rather shiny record of respecting human rights; in this game I can only place both thumbs firmly down and boo.

Honduras. Not a glowing example of a human rights based utopia, and with more coups than fake injuries on a football pitch, it doesn’t take long to write a list of social injustices associated with the country. Migration for Hondurans and those traveling through Honduras to arrive at the good old land of the free is often traumatic and unsuccessful. Paved with ill treatment, racism, abuse and a host of sexual violence towards women, migration of Hondurans and those traveling through risk life and dignity in the dream of reaching the promise land (our friend the USA).

Sadly, many don’t make it alive, and are usually denied entry or can’t afford the corrupt methods to get in. Obama is hardly standing there with arms wide open. The experiences of migrants are often unknown and rarely documented. Yet most that do speak up and report living through or witnessing a traumatic experience such as psychological or physical abuse, injury, rape, or death at the hands of gangs, Mexican authorities, or freight trains along the way.

Within their journeys it is actually Mexico that poses most of the threats to the desperate migrants, not the USA. Many Mexicans particularly are not fans of Hondurans and all levels discriminate against them, including police and gangs. A film I recommend in particular to highlight the plight of Honduran and other migrants is Sin Nombre.

I could go on about migrant policies, laws and support groups, but like my interest in football I’ll keep this short and sweet. So I am sending a ‘red card’ both countries for Spain’s treatment of child migrants in the Canary Islands and the treatment of Honduran migrants in Mexico and the land of the brave.

So who will I be cheering for? For freedom. For our right to live and move to where ever we like with dignity and armed with our right to live. I am cheering for all of us lucky ones unlike the Honduran and African migrants who have their human rights respected and don’t feel they have to risk their lives for a better future.

I am cheering for democracy and freedom.

Posted in: Honduras, Honduras-Spain, Spain

Rosie is policy and campaigns intern at WDM. After studying Psychology she worked on the Abidjan toxic waste case in the Ivory Coas and as a legal researcher and campaign assistant at the Human Rights Law Network in Delhi. Playing 'soccer' as a little girl in Louisiana she didnt understand why she couldnt take her shirt off like the boys and there started her dislike for football and discrimination.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

Spain v Switzerland: the F word

At my primary school only boys were allowed to play football. At the age of 8, I remember feeling like this was a terrible injustice, because I hated netball. My secondary school was a girls’ grammar school where all sports except football were taught, including rugby and cricket.

If I had the opportunity to play football at school, would I feel more of an affinity with the sport now? Try as I might, I can’t shake the feeling that it’s a man’s game and has very little to do with me.

In the public arena, it is still a man’s game, even if it’s changing slowly. Now, the girls at my old secondary school play in football leagues, and it’s pretty much the norm for girls to play football at school. Will this eventually lead to women’s football being as popular as men’s football? I wonder.

In 1921, women’s football was banned by the FA on the ground that “the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.” The ban was only lifted in 1971. Women footballers had to wait until 1991 for the first Women’s World Cup.

Many international women football players have to work full time to subsidise their football careers because they don’t get paid enough. Is women’s football still sidelined and devalued because it is deemed to be “unsuitable for females”?

In the new UK coalition government, one would be forgiven for thinking that those in charge see politics as unsuitable for women. 75.5% of elected MPs are men, with only one female cabinet member. And perhaps it’s not just those in charge.

The day after the recent UK election, I had a conversation with a politically far-left-leaning man. His explanation for the lack of women in government was that “maybe it’s because women don’t want to get involved with a bunch of slimy politicians. They’re probably wise to stay out of it.”

I wonder if that’s what men in Switzerland thought during the referendum in 1959 where the majority of men voted ‘no’ to oppose women’s suffrage. And if that’s what the conservative women’s group ‘Federation of Swiss Women against Women’s Right to Vote’ were thinking.

Is women’s representation in government really just about whether women are interested in politics, just as, I ask, is the lack of coverage of women’s football really about not enough people being interested enough to watch it? Surely it’s more about a society’s lack of encouragement and commitment to equal opportunities?

Today, only 14.3% of Switzerland’s government are women. It sounds worse if you look at it in another way: 85.7% of people in government are men. It’s hardly surprising given the long struggle for women’s suffrage in Switzerland. Switzerland was the last country in Europe to grant the vote to women; women didn’t gain the right to vote in federal elections until 1971.

If politics is a dirty game and women can act as atrociously in power as men, some ask whether having more women in politics would necessarily bring about a fairer world? The president of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, is a self-avowed feminist and thinks it does matter – on  principle of fairness and equality.

“One thing that really awakens my rebellious streak is 20 centuries of one sex dominating another”, he said. “We talk of slavery, feudalism, exploitation, but the most unjust domination if that of one-half of the human race over the other.”

Zapatero was elected in 2004 in part on his promise to improve women’s position in society, in what is still a machismo culture. Now, because of a gender equality law, 50% of people in Spain’s parliament are women. It wasn’t difficult to get 50% representation, it just took political will at the top.

So, that’s why I’m cheering for Spain. My own disenfranchisement from football at school and the lack of representation by my own sex in the UK parliament means I have little interest in supporting England in the Men’s World Cup 2010. And besides, Spanish players are better looking. Oh, and a tip for those thinking of making a trip to the bookies: I have it on good authority that Spain are going to win.

Posted in: Global injustice, Matches, Spain, Switzerland, Teams

I'm the World Development Movement's fundraising and communications officer. My feelings about football usually range from dislike to apathy - but this World Cup, for some strange reason, I'm starting to like it. Let's just say, I'm training my eye on the thigh.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

Team-by-team: Groups G & H

Group G


Brazil’s major worry coming into this tournament is, almost unbelievably, a lack of creativity. Without an in-form superstar in their attacking line-up, a weight of expectation is on the shoulders of Kaka, who has spent much of the last 12 months alternating between injured and out of sorts. With Julio Cesar, Lucio and Maicon in their back five, it is defensive solidity that is their strength this time around, much to coach Dunga’s delight presumably.

Despite 7 years of the left-wing Lula administration and social programmes such as the Bolsa Família aimed at eradicating hunger, Brazil nonetheless enter the World Cup firmly in mid-table in the Who Should I Cheer For league, thanks in part to a persistently high level of income inequality.

Ivory Coast

Like Didier Drogba’s arm, the Ivory Coast’s health system appears to be comprehensively broken, with maternal mortality figures through the roof at 944 per 100,000 births. Despite this, low national income and extremely low carbon emissions lead Cote d’Ivoire into 4th place in the Who Should I Cheer For standings.

Drogba, despite his infuriating on-field personality, is actually one of football’s most prominent champions of the poor. He is a UNDP goodwill ambassador, and once donated his £3m fee from a sponsorship deal to the construction of a hospital in his hometown Abidjan. Nonetheless, about a quarter of the population live below the $1.25 a day international poverty line, and in a group of death, and potentially without their inspirational captain, they may not gain much succour from this tournament.

North Korea

Well, what can you say really? Even the most avid of contrarians will struggle to get behind a team representing one of the most repressive regimes in the world. While their audacious attempt to sidestep FIFA’s silly mandatory three goalkeepers rule was both amusing and admirable, it is nonetheless indicative of the disconnect between incredibly strict rules at home and a cavalier disregard for international standards. With approximately 900 people per 100,000 held in prisons or labour camps, I dread to imagine the consequences of defying any of the Supreme Leader’s goalkeeping-related regulations back in Pyongyang.


Portugal’s main failing during their recent ‘golden generation’ years has been a lack of killer instinct, which belies their curiously high military spending. Similarly, their often generous defending fails to reflect their significantly less generous 0.21% of GDP given in international aid, placing them comprehensively to the bottom of our standings, if not the FIFA world rankings.

Nonetheless, their appetite for a major trophy reflects the 6% of the country that remain chronically hungry, and with the poor form of the team under Carlos Quieroz mirroring an economy described by the Economist as “the new sick man of Europe”, riddled by both debt and corruption scandals, it’s not looking great for either.

Group H


Chile’s hosting of the World Cup in 1962 is a case in point for the often vexed intersection between football and poverty. The 1960 earthquake had devastated the country, yet Chile vowed to press on: “Because we have nothing, we want to do everything.” While it is arguable that resources for rebuilding may have been better directed elsewhere, one should not underestimate the effects of football on national morale, and a successful World Cup, coupled with an impressive third place for the hosts had a deep restorative effect on the country.

Despite sitting at a lowly 24th in the most supportable country stakes (largely due to somewhat extravagant military spending), after another enormous earthquake this February, the damage for which has been estimated at around 10-15% of GDP, Chile may be a great deal more sympathetic than it would appear.

This is without even mentioning their cavalier attacking football, typified by the free-scoring Humberto Suazo, that brought them to second place behind Brazil in the qualifiers, and may well see them get out of the group.


After scraping through to the World Cup from a poor CONCACAF qualifying tournament, the Hondurans appear set to be the most whippingest of whipping boys, despite the presence of Premier League talents Maynor Figueroa and Wilson Palacios. A desperately poor country, the Hondurans’ delight last year at qualifying for their first World Cup since they took a point off Spain in 1982 occurred during a constitutional crisis that resulted in left-leaning president Manuel Zelaya being removed and exiled in a military coup d’état. The subsequent election has been condemned as illegitimate, with most of Latin America and much of the rest of the world refusing to recognise the election of Porfirio Sosa.

2009 also saw a period where freedom of expression, movement and habeus corpus were all suspended, somewhat belying their position at number 3 in the Who Should I Cheer For? standings, albeit perfectly encapsulating the tension between whether you would be cheering for the people, or the State.


Having posted the best inter-World Cup set of results of any international team ever, it would seem that Spain are deserved favourites. With a superabundance of attacking talent at their disposal, a world class goalkeeper in Casillas, and a surprisingly resilient defence that benefits from the opposition almost never having the ball, surely only injuries can dent Spain’s chances of finally joining the elite of World Cup winning nations. Football being football however, come the latter stages (and Spain have a relatively tough route to the final) nothing is a certainty.

Nonetheless, one can but applaud the quality of football they play, and, for a European country, a fairly respectable 8th place in our standings (thanks to low military spending, and an incredibly high rate of women in parliament) mean that Spain are a very attractive proposition for the neutral indeed.


Low income inequality, low military spending (surprise) and relatively low carbon emissions mean the Swiss occupy a reasonable 10th position in our standings.

While legendary coach Ottmar Hitzfeld has offered them new attacking impetus, for a famously neutral country, their team is remarkably poor at attracting neutrals of the footballing variety. Specifically, that 10th place fails to take into account their 0-0 draw with the Ukraine in the last 16 of World Cup 2006, which, though it has yet to be put to a vote at the UN, can only be described as a crime against humanity.

After a controversial plebiscite banning the construction of minarets was passed last year, liberals, Muslims and fans of enjoyable football alike may find it difficult to forgive and forget this summer.

Posted in: Brazil, Chile, Cote d'Ivoire, Group previews, Honduras, North Korea, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland

Carl works for the Irish Ombudsman for Children's Office in Dublin. When not crying bitter, resentful tears over Ireland's elmination from the World Cup and their subsequent lack of dignity, he is busy admiring Xavi and Iniesta's spearheading of a golden era of Spanish football.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

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