While research on Politics + [Movies / Literature / Music] is common, where is the work on Politics + [Sports]? James Dorsey’s “The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer” begins filling this huge gap. He argues soccer stadiums train sports fans to become activists, especially young people, often leading to violence. In 1997 Iran, celebrations to support the national team in a World Cup match against Australia turned into “Death to the Mullahs” protest. Libya’s historic Al Ahly club represented the community’s opposition to the Qaddafi family regime, as protests broke out in 2011, security forces razed the club’s headquarters. Egypt’s Ultras groups, anarchists experienced in struggling for control against security forces at soccer stadiums, applied those skills at Tahrir Square in 2011. Chanting in rhythm and with disciplined movement they swept through streets, said one graduate student, creating space for other people to participate more easily in the protests. Sport and soccer are arenas for women to fight for their civil rights. Hosting the World Cup put a spotlight on Qatar’s labor policies in a way that years of building projects and other cultural events did not, possibly leading to a redefinition of what it means to be Qatari. If we think of poetry in the authoritarian state as a sublimated voice of the dissident, then perhaps sports in the authoritarian state is the sublimated battlefield of the revolutionary.
Read the original research.
Dorsey, James M. “The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.” Oxford, 2016. See Dorsey's blog.