As fans from around the world travel to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup, this mega sporting event reveals how processes of division and unification are central to Qatari state power. While the World Cup constructs and fortifies a distinctly Qatari nationalism, the tournament has not erased the underlying tensions and inequities in Qatar’s migration system and citizenship policies. Beginning with the “Hayya Card,” a new visa tied to the purchase of a FIFA ticket, Jaafar Alloul and Laavanya Kathiravelu consider how ambiguous legislation is being used to differentiate and divide resident groups for purposes of retaining control. At the same time, they highlight emerging spaces for everyday solidarity between Qatari citizens and migrant communities made possible through generational change.
The past decade has seen the growing presence of political protest and expressions of Palestinian national identity in football stadiums in Israel, with Ultras Sakhnin setting a powerful example. Revisiting arguments made in his 2007 book, Tamir Sorek traces how interrelated local, regional and global factors are contributing to the increasing audibility and visibility of politics in Palestinian football. From songs on social media to signs in the stands, the actions of fans and athletes reject the designation of sports as an apolitical field and challenge the regime of racialized supremacy football has largely legitimized—until now.
With Morocco’s youth reeling from bleak educational and job prospects following two years of strict COVID lockdowns, football clubs offer unique outlets for expressing frustration, anger and opposition to the authoritarian status quo. The stadium has become one of the few public spaces relatively free of state control where citizens feel they can express their grievances. Although traditionally known for their rivalries with other clubs, “ultras”—associations of a team’s most ardent fans—have, over the past ten years, emerged as quasi-social movements, facing off against authorities to demand greater economic opportunities and political inclusion.
As football fans around the world tune in to the World Cup in Qatar, President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi’s regime is rather turning its back on the game, which used to constitute a centerpiece of Egyptian nation building. Based on research conducted for his book, Egypt’s Football Revolution: Emotion, masculinity, and uneasy politics, Carl Rommel discusses the history of football in Egypt between 1990-2019. How has the sport shaped and been shaped by notions of masculinity? What is its role in and relationship to the country’s dramatically changing political landscape?