Both a symbol of the Mubarak government’s power and a component in its construction of national identity, football served as fertile ground for Egyptians to confront the regime’s overthrow during the 2011 revolution. With the help of the state, appreciation for football in Egypt peaked in the late 2000s. Yet after Mubarak fell, fans questioned their previous support, calling for a reformed football for a new, postrevolutionary nation.
In Egypt’s Football Revolution, Carl Rommel examines the politics of football as a space for ordinary Egyptians and state forces to negotiate a masculine Egyptian chauvinism. Basing his discussion on several years of fieldwork with fans, players, journalists, and coaches, he investigates the increasing attention paid to football during the Mubarak era; its demise with the 2011 uprisings and 2012 Port Said massacre, which left seventy-two fans dead; and its recent rehabilitation. Cairo’s highly organized and dedicated Ultras fans became a key revolutionary force through their antiregime activism, challenging earlier styles of fandom and making visible entrenched ties between sport and politics. As the appeal of football burst, alternative conceptions of masculinity, emotion, and politics came to the fore to demand or prevent revolution and reform.
List of Illustrations
Note on Transliterations
Introduction: Emotions, Politics, and Egypt’s Changing National Game
Part I. Bubble
Chapter 1. Normal Nationals and Vulgar Winners
Chapter 2. Fanatical Politics and Resurging Respectability
Part II. Ultras
Chapter 3. A Revolutionary Emotional Style
Chapter 4. A Respectable Revolution Measures Its Violence
Chapter 5. The Insurmountable Double Bind of Siyasa
Part III. Aftermath
Chapter 6. When the Game Feels Like Politics, It Doesn’t Feel Like Much at All
Chapter 7. No National Significance, No Political Concerns
Conclusion: An Emotional Revolt Trapped in Politics
Postscript: Magnificent Mohamed Salah and the Ill-Fated 2018 World Cup
Carl Rommel is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki.
[Egypt's Football Revolution] is an interesting addition which undoubtedly will enrich the growing literature and multidisciplinary studies on sport, football in particular, in North African and Middle Eastern Societies. It is a must read for both academics and students in social sciences, and those interested in anthropology. The author’s lived experiences in Egypt and extensive ethnographic insights through the lenses of football offer a rich narrative about the political and social dynamics of Egypt.
[Egypt's Football Revolution's] analysis of revolution, football emotion and masculinity enlightens the reader about what happened in the North African country during the last twenty years, and how Egyptian male football Ultras and the Egyptian government felt about it...Rommel’s knowledge of the subject is deep and broad. He has spent long hours viewing the game at stadiums and interacting with young Egyptians, and his participant observation of the Ultra fans in particular reveals their oral histories’ emotionality and value. This makes the work a reminder to historians who might otherwise emphasise archival texts and documents, of the deep feelings that motivate individuals, and allow for their manipulation by others.
~Sport in History
An intriguing anthropological study...Egypt's Football Revolution is an important addition to the recent wave of sports publications on the Middle East and the ever-growing literature that uses sport as a fruitful lens through which to examine social and cultural issues. Sport historians, in particular, will be interested by the study's claim that the emotions generated by sport are a product of politics...the book is a welcome addition to scholarship on sport and society. The diverse themes and thought-provoking thesis make the study a fruitful object for future debates, and it is a must for scholars and graduate students of sport in the middle east.
~Journal of Sport History
Through detailed analysis of media, sports fans and revolutionary change, the reader follows the trajectory of the ‘national game’ from its peak of popular attraction to its fall into obscurity. With a focus on affect and emotions, this tale of football in Egypt is also one that tells of how the masculine national subject is supposed to feel, act and react to events that bring people, places, old and new media together like no other...The focus on individual interlocutors, events, and large-scale processes in an interwoven manner adds richness to the texture of this excellent piece that ought to spark interest among sports fans and academics alike.
~Anthropology Book Forum
Rommel’s book is masterful at showing the mutual nourishment of and transformations between footballing passions and political passions...The greatest merit of the book is that its particular Egyptian context engages with a question that is broadly consequential and has preoccupied some of the most seminal thinkers: how the political emerges...Rommel’s work is a great pleasure to read, and it is a significant contribution to sport anthropology as one of the few full-fledged ethnographies of football.
~Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
[A] meticulously researched book...What brings more depth and nuance to Rommel’s work is his choice of conceptual frameworks wherein emotion, masculinity and politics are in a creative, uneasy and tensed dialogue with each other all at once.
~Soccer & Society