The Ultras, the Military, and the Revolution

By | February 2, 2012

The violence at Port Said last night has generated enormous commentary on twitter, and a beginning of media coverage of varying quality. One of the best summaries came last night at The Lede blog of New York Times — it’s quality largely due to the fact that it is composed of the tweets and videos generated on the ground in Egypt. You can read a good critique of a different, earlier, article by the New York Times — which like a certain number of other reports focused on the supposed “savagery” of the ultras and downplayed the political context and valences of the event — here.

But the key to all of this is to understand the long history of the participation of some ultra fan groups in politics — particularly last year, when they were at the leading edge of the protests against Mubarak — and the particular conjuncture in the Egyptian revolution we now face.

Yesterday produced horrific images of bloodshed. Today began with some striking gestures of solidarity, such as the one pictured here by @Sarahcarr of banners of two rival clubs — Zamalek and El Ahly — sewn together.

But as a write, there are new clashes in Cairo, where protestors are blaming the military regime for the deaths. Many commentators have been arguing that what is going on is about politics, not football, and of course on some level that is true. But what is also clear in Egypt is that football and politics are so intertwined in this story that there is almost no way to untangle them.

We’ll have more material here on the situation in the next days. In the meantime, James Dorsey’s blog “The Turbulent World of Mideast Soccer” is a great resource for analysis and context on the situation: read all his posts under Egypt to get a sense of the many events that have led up to what happened yesterday. In the meantime, twitter — including @Beltrew who is reporting from Cairo and @amasays, a Duke graduate student, who is providing excellent updates from various sources in Egypt — remains the ideal source of information for an ongoing situation that is likely to have far-reaching consequences for Egypt.


Much has gone on since I wrote this post, but I wanted to make sure to share this photo of graffiti commemorating the dead from the Port Said incident.

Category: Uncategorized Tags:

About Laurent Dubois

I am Professor of Romance Studies and History and the Director of the Forum for Scholars & Publics at Duke University. I founded the Soccer Politics blog in 2009 as part of a course on "World Cup and World Politics" taught at Duke University. I'm currently teaching the course under the title "Soccer Politics" here at Duke. My books include Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France (University of California Press, 2010) and The Language of the Game: How to Understand Soccer (Basic Books, 2018)

6 thoughts on “The Ultras, the Military, and the Revolution

  1. Android

    Interesting stuff here. And you’re right in characterising a lot of the commentary as missing the political context of the events.

  2. Laurent Dubois Post author

    Peter, thanks for catching my mistake! One only only a one-time anthropology student would make. Thanks for links too.

  3. Pingback: Egyptians See Political Overtones in Deadly Soccer Riot « Scissors Kick

Leave a Reply to peter harvey Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.