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Egypt’s Football Revolution

Egypt’s Football Revolution
Emotion, Masculinity, and Uneasy Politics

A detailed account of the entanglement of Egyptian football with surging nationalist politics as the sport’s appeal waxed and waned before and after the 2011 Revolution.

July 2021
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296 pages | 6 x 9 |

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
  • Acknowledgments
  • 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
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index

Carl Rommel is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki.


Egypt’s Football Revolution is a fascinating and ethnographicalfamed soccer fans and their struggle for dignity, freedom, and justice. But it is much more than ly rich account of the country’s that. Rommel expertly reveals a tension between Egyptian nationalism and ideal concepts of politics (siyasa)—a tension that ultimately constrained the liberatory possibilities of the 2011 uprising. This book is critical reading for anyone seeking to understand how people make sense of the concept of politics in their daily lives and how that process shapes political possibilities, revolutionary and otherwise.”
Jessica Winegar, au of Creative Reckonings: The Politics of Art and Culture in Contemporary Egypt

“The political resonance of Egyptian football has long been obvious yet opaque. Egypt’s Football Revolution brings both the sport and its political significance to life—its connection to masculinity, nationalism, neoliberal culture, and revolution. But the true brilliance of this book lies in the fact that for many of those who love the game, football is intrinsically connected to joy. A mere sociological dissection of it never quite captures that essential quality of the game. Rommel’s account of Egyptian football is a tour de force, illuminating both the passion and the politics of a crucial element of contemporary Egyptian society.”
Walter Armbrust, author of Martyrs and Tricksters: An Ethnography of the Egyptian Revolution