Sports scholars Danyel Reiche
and Tamir Sorek
’s edited volume, Sport, Politics, and Society in the Middle East
(Oxford University Press, 2019), makes a significant contribution to what remains a largely understudied, yet critically important segment of Middle Eastern political and social life. It does so by discussing in eleven chapters multiple aspects and consequences of the region’s incestuous relationship between sports and politics. These range from corruption, the role of the private sector, an emphasis on elite sports and projection of the state at the expense of grassroots sports to battles for identity expressed among others in memories to how sports chants in Israel reflect society’s political and social moods as well as it fault lines, the struggle of women to overcome deeply entrenched social modes and how social media helps them with branding. The edited volume is not only an at times ethnographic dive into Middle Eastern sports’ multiple facets but also in many ways a mapping of how much remains to be explored. This is a volume that should attract the attention of anyone who is interested in the Middle East, sports and/or gender issues as well as readers whose focus is a specific country like Turkey, Israel, Palestine or Jordan or a group of nations like the Gulf states. Whatever one’s preference is, Reiche and Sorek have produced a volume rich in texture, insight and breadth that is likely to prompt the reader to think differently about the political and societal importance of Middle Eastern sports.