Football in the Middle East
State, Society, and the Beautiful GamePart of the Georgetown University, Center for International and Regional Studies, School of Foreign Service in Qatar series
A tour d’horizon exploring how the world’s best-loved game is affecting people, societies and governments across the region.
Far and away the most popular sport in the world, football has a special place in Middle Eastern societies, and for Middle Eastern states. With Qatar hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, this region has been cast into the global footballing spotlight, raising issues of geopolitical competition, consumer culture and social justice.
Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this book examines the complex questions raised by the phenomenon of football as a significant cultural force in the Middle East, as well as its linkages to broader political and socioeconomic processes. The establishment of football as a national sport offers significant insight into the region’s historical experiences with colonialism and struggles for independence, as well as the sport’s vital role in local and regional politics today–whether at the forefront of popular mobilisations, or as an instrument of authoritarian control. Football has also served as an arena of contestation in the formation of national identity, the struggle for gender equality, and the development of the media landscape.
The twelve contributions to this volume draw on extensive engagement with the existing body of literature, and introduce original research questions that promise to open new directions for the study of football in the Middle East.
‘[T]his book includes illuminating chapters on subjects of great importance both in and to the Middle East.’ — The Markaz Review
‘The power of this book lies in its ability to take a bird’s-eye view of political events in the various countries in the region and at the same time to look through the eyes of individual players: a football fan, a woman football player struggling for equality in sport, a Palestinian refugee and more.’ — Asian Journal of Sport History and Culture
‘From Morocco to Iran, this volume illustrates vividly and convincingly the political significance of the beautiful game. Timely, original and well written, it is a must-read for anyone interested in the fascinating and multifaceted story of Middle Eastern football.’ — Tamir Sorek, Liberal Arts Professor of Middle East History, Penn State University
‘From football’s links to Egyptian anti-colonialism to Qatar’s rise to prominence off the back of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to the role Algerian ultras played in creating the protest aesthetic that helped force President Bouteflika from power, Football in the Middle East is yet more evidence that football has always been a vital, but often ignored, window into understanding the region. Fantastic.’ — James Montague, journalist, and author of When Friday Comes
‘An insightful analysis of different facets in the study of the region through the lens of football as a complex social phenomenon. A timely and interesting study of football as a space for contestation, celebration, inclusion and exclusion.’ — Mahfoud Amara, Associate Professor in Sport Management, Qatar University, and author of Sport, Politics and Society in the Arab World
‘An outstanding, highly accessible and very timely volume which breaks new ground in the depth and breadth of its analysis of football across the Middle East from a variety of academic, policy and fan-based perspectives.’ — Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Fellow for the Middle East, Rice University
Abdullah Al-Arian is Associate Professor of History at Georgetown University in Qatar, and the author of Answering the Call: Popular Islamic Activism in Sadat's Egypt.