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Monday, June 13, 2016

Book Review: "The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer" by James M. Dorsey

Image credit: Amazon and
Oxford University Press.

An American journalist and Mideast expert, James Dorsey, writes a definitive book about the historical and present day factors that shape Middle Eastern society through the prism of soccer.

1. Organized Format
2. Writing Style
3. Conclusion
4. About the Author

"Connecting these dots made me realize that no study, analysis or history of modern society is complete without a focus on the nexus of sport, society, culture, politics and development. The power of this nexus is nowhere more evident than in soccer---the world's most global cultural practice. 

Players, managers and fans define their shared identity, often in opposition to other groups, through their everyday involvement in soccer and this is especially the case in the Middle East and North Africa.

Soccer figures prominently in the region's life. The pitch is often the indicator of things to come. Militant soccer fans played a key role in the years building up to the toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the subsequent years of transition and the protest against the regime of Egyptian general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, as well as in the protests in 2013 against then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan." 

--- James M. Dorsey, author of "The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer", quoted on pages 1 and 2, in his book published by the Oxford University Press in May 2016 with a retail price of $24.95.

I have been a reader of Mr. Dorsey's innovative blog (which has the same name as this book) for several years. The author is a great educator about a complicated Middle Eastern topic that blends culture, social, religious, political, historical, economic and sporting themes in a volatile region of our world. Before Mr. Dorsey's undertaking of this genre, few Anglophone journalists had examined the special role that soccer plays in the Middle Eastern world.

Let's take a longer look at this book's intriguing and informative content.

1. Organized Format:

There is an acknowledgments section that provides a helpful chronology of Middle Eastern soccer history from the late 1800s that is an excellent resource in and of itself. The author then provided an introduction followed by six chapters, an epilogue, along with an incredibly detailed notes section. The index also was well crafted for easy reference queries by readers. The length of this book was 287 pages before the Notes section.

Chapter 1: Bearing the Scars of Battle
Chapter 2: The Battle for Greater Freedom
Chapter 3: Islamists Fight over Soccer
Chapter 4: Struggling for Nationhood, Battling for Change
Chapter 5: Shattering Taboos
Chapter 6: Competing on the World Stage

2. Writing Style:

Image credit: The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.
James M. Dorsey from his appearance at
"Play the Game."

Mr. Dorsey is a veteran newspaper reporter and this book showcases his journalistic skills abundantly. Discussing the Middle East, whether from a sporting, religious, historical or political landscape, is not an easy task. The author made this book eminently readable and engaging especially for those without a background in this part of the world.

This is also a work of assiduous research, citing of facts, quoting of experts and painstaking detail that one would expect given the author's international reputation.

3. Conclusion:

"George Orwell described sport as 'war minus the shooting.' In the spirit of Orwell, I aim to take the reader on a journey into the colourful, hair-raising, little-known world of the region's soccer." (Page 7)

A trip Mr. Dorsey took with the Mexican national team to the Middle East and North Africa in 1986 produced an insatiable curiosity about this region, its peoples, cultures, political climate, the role of Islam, and how these facets manifested themselves through the lens of a sport. Namely, soccer. The fruits of his labors are found three decades later in this excellent journalistic journey that will become a seminal work on this topic. 

Please Note:

I have received a complimentary review copy of this book from a representative of the publisher, Oxford University Press. I was not financially compensated by the author, publisher or any party who would benefit from a positive review.

4. About the Author:

James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University. He is Co-Director of the University of Würzburg's Institute of Fan Culture, a visiting scholar at its Institute of Sport Science, and author of the 'The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer' blog.

Biographical text courtesy of Oxford University Press.

Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator based in Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries since 2006 and published The Soccer Translator from 2008 to 2015. 


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