Cairo’s Ultras: Resistance and Revolution in Egypt’s Football Culture

Author: Ronnie Close

If anyone needs a reminder that policy is made not only by princes, presidents, and politicians but also by the many people who don’t care much about politics but just don’t like to be pushed around, the story of Egypt’s fanatical football fans should do the trick. Close’s book provides an instructive, if imperfect, introduction to the so-called Ultras, who came to widespread attention during and after the 2011 uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak from power. They proved to be able foot soldiers during many of the protests, owing less to their political convictions—most had no ideological allegiance—than to their long-standing resentment of the police. Readers unaccustomed to prose describing “a different type of spectacle, freed from the controlled commodity vision, and repurposed as a spectacle of community” may find the language trying. But Close paints an evocative portrait of the varied and ambiguous roles sports can play in an autocracy, where a regime’s reliance on bread and circuses may eventually wear thin in the absence of genuine progress.