When Friday Comes: The Football Revolution in the Middle East and the Road to Qatar James Montague Ebury Press, €19
ips about men’s fake beards, sports, and masculinity are actively shared among Iran’s staunch women’s soccer supporters.
Since Saudi Arabia implemented restrictive liberal policies in recent years allowing women to drive and attend football matches, Iran became the last country to ban women from attending football matches. international and domestic competitions. Passing the ball to a man is essential if they are to participate in matches.
In his courage When Friday Comes: The Football Revolution in the Middle East and the Road to QatarAuthor James Montague takes us on a 20-year journey through many football outposts in the Arab world, Israel, North Africa and Iran.
With a look at inequality and strangeness, Montague’s book is part of a football travel magazine, but also a wonderful profile of the intricacies of recent history in the Middle East. , seen through the eyes of players, supporters and those higher up in the football chain.
In Iran’s theocracy, Montague attended the heated 2018 Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal, where Fifa president Gianni Infantino was the guest of honor.
While the match was being played in front of 100,000 all-male fans, Montague learned of 35 female fans who had been detained outside the stadium by Gasht-e Ershad, Iran’s ethics police.
Their fake beards didn’t work but they also hoped the police wouldn’t dare arrest them with boss Fifa in town.
Montague spoke to Farha, one of the women, after she was released, and she recounted how a friendly warden had told them Esteghlal had won 1-0. This left half of the women forced to celebrate in their shared cells.
There are many contradictions in Iran’s ban on women, which is not a law but a rule that is still brutally enforced.
Farha was told by a stadium guard that she could attend the Iran vs Syria international match if she was carrying the Syrian flag and said she was a supporter of Syria.
“I’m Iranian. And I’m proud of that,” she said. “Why should I change my flag? It’s my country!”
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Masoud Shojaei, the Iran captain, lifted the ban with then-Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, when he met the team.
This earned him a lot of respect from women but was criticized by many in Iranian society.
The fact that Shojaei would later play for his Greek club team against an Israeli team in a European competition, which resulted in his temporary disqualification from the national team altogether, was counterproductive. backlash when he was playing against a club from a big enemy.
One of the most admirable aspects of Montague’s book is that he includes so many points of view in what is certainly the most uproarious political part of the world. In Israel, he reveals how a supporter’s politics can affect the club they support, as well as how close the club is to their birthplace or hometown.
While most clubs now use Muslim players, supporters of Beitar Jerusalem have not shyly and vigorously campaigned against the inclusion of Muslims in “their” clubs. In 2018, the club’s owner received death threats after signing Ali Mohamed, a striker from Niger, even though he is a Christian.
In the end, La Familia said they decided they had no problem with the player because he was a devout Christian. However, they wanted him to change his name so that “the name Mohamed is not heard” in the Beitar Stadium.
This book is an updated version of the book that was first published in 2008. Since then, Montague has been able to follow his main characters through events such as the Arab Spring revolution, the Syria’s civil war and Qatar’s bid to host this year’s World Cup are controversial.
Starting in Qatar in 2005, Montague caught up with near-retired superstar players who earned their sponsorship money on petrol in mostly empty stadiums in the previous British protectorate. this became a country only in 1971.
Ronald DeBoer, a Dutch midfielder, revels in the slow pace of life and immaculate golf courses. His four balls included former internationals like Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Batistuta, Frank Le Boeuf and his brother Frank, who were all playing in Qatar at the time.
The Qataris have a more long-term plan to boost their footballing fortunes by establishing Aspire Academy; it was launched in a strange wave of publicity by paying the fortunes of Diego Maradona and Pelé to attend an opening ceremony.
The academy has recruited and trained talented young players from all over the world who will naturalize Qatar. How well it worked will be on display in November.
Montague pays due attention to Qatar’s regional cold war and football strategies with the Gulf states and its belated efforts to improve conditions and rights for the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers brought in. to build the country’s stadiums and infrastructure.
The revised book is a fascinating insight into poverty, wealth, anger, disillusionment, and the hopeful struggle that pervades the Middle East and the beautiful game.
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