Richard Whittall:

“The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer has helped me immensely with great information and perspective.”


Bob Bradley, former US and Egyptian national coach

"James Dorsey’s The Turbulent World of Middle Eastern Soccer (has) become a reference point for those seeking the latest information as well as looking at the broader picture."
Alon Raab in The International Journal of the History of Sport

“Dorsey’s blog is a goldmine of information.”

Play the Game

"Your expertise is clearly superior when it comes to Middle Eastern soccer."
Andrew Das, The New York Times soccer blog Goal

"Dorsey statement (on Egypt) proved prophetic."
David Zirin, Sports Illustrated

"Essential Reading"
Change FIFA

"A fantastic new blog'
Richard Whitall of A More Splendid Life

"James combines his intimate knowledge of the region with a great passion for soccer"
Christopher Ahl, Play the Game

"An excellent Middle East Football blog"
James Corbett, Inside World Football


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How football fuelled the Arab Spring

Few people can be unaware that 2011 has been a momentous year for the many Arab nations. Successful uprisings in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, and ongoing conflicts in Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere have made headlines across the world. Much less known, however, is the role played by football supporters in these popular revolutions.

By Marcus Hoy

04 October 2011

James M. Dorsey spoke about the role played by football supporters in uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere. Photo by Tine Harden

The story of the pivotal role played by football supporters in the Arab Spring was related to Play the Game by James M. Dorsey, an award-winning US journalist and Middle East expert.

The Egyptian revolution in particular was fuelled by an extraordinary truce between street-hardened supporters of Cairo’s two largest clubs, Al Ahli and Zamalek, Dorsey said. During the so-called Arab Spring, he pointed out, one of the first actions of incumbent governments was to adjourn national football competitions in an attempt to isolate the radical elements congregating on the stands and terraces.

Under repressive regimes across the Middle East, Dorsey pointed out, the only two outlets for releasing the pent up anger of disenfranchised young men and women were the mosques and the football stadiums. And while Arabic football fans do not resort to terrorist acts, he added, they are often keen to embrace violence.

While mosques have been portrayed as a focus of fundamentalist Islam, soccer stadiums have been battle grounds for other issues such as women’s rights, national rights, ethnic rights, and religious rights. A large number of soccer fans are highly politicised, especially in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, where many describe themselves as anarchists, Dorsey explained.

Nowhere in the Middle East is the rivalry more intense than in Cairo where Zamalek, a former British colonial club, is a bitter rival with the populist Al Ahly. Supporters of both clubs count a large number of what Dorsey called “battle-hardened street fighters” among their number. These “ultras” fight each other and the security forces on a regular basis.

While popular demonstrations were taking place in Cairo’s Tahrir Square earlier this year, Dorsey said, the masses and the youth organizations of the Moslem brotherhood were joined by a third group – Cairo’s soccer fans, who had agreed an unprecedented truce in order to express their opposition to the autocrats in elite positions of political power – which to many mirrored the situation in Egyptian football.

Many grassroots supporters, Dorsey added, were unenthusiastic about last month’s appointment of former US national coach Bob Bradley as the head of the Egyptian National Team. This team is still seen by numerous Egyptian supporters as “Mubarak’s team”, he said, and many fans “couldn’t care less” about Bradley’s appointment.


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