Football and Society in the Middle East

aboutreika_gaza2On November 14, football in the Middle East took center stage at FSF. The conversation focused on a special issue of the journal Soccer and Society, edited by Alon Raab and Issam Khalidi. It began by noting that while football has been a critical force in broader political and cultural developments in the region, there is little institutional support for studying the game in the Middle East.

The ensuing 90-minute discussion demonstrated the value of qualitative scholarly work on football.  The group explored a dizzying number of topics and territories, including football as a source of unity and hope and as a site of political and ideological conflict; the 2022 World Cup in Qatar; soccerpolitics in Turkey; sport and Islamism; Palestinian and Iraqi Kurdish women’s teams; and football films and poetry.

Participants via Skype from around the world were: Alon Raab, James Dorsey, Andrew Guest, Orli Bass, Hikabwa Chipande, David Kilpatrick, Lindsay Krasnoff, Steven Apostolov, Raj Raman, and Derek Catsam. Liz Timbs, Dave Glovsky, and Peter Alegi participated from Michigan State University.

The audio recording of the session is available here.

Cairo Ultras in Egyptian Protests

Anti-government protests in Egypt are being driven by young men, including Egyptian ultras writes FSF member James Dorsey. “Soccer fans constitute a well-organized and feared pillar of the marshalling grassroots coalition determined to ensure that President Hosni Mubarak suffers the same fate as Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who was toppled earlier this month by mass demonstrations.” Full article here.

For more details on Egyptian ultras and the social and political implications of the game in Cairo, listen to David Goldblatt’s The Secret Policeman’s Football: Al Ahly v Zamalek (part 2 of his BBC radio documentary “The Power and the Passion”) and read this multimedia essay by one of the founders of Egypt’s first ultras group.