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Rooted in History: Politics, Identity and Ultras in North African Soccer

In Chuka Onwumechili and Gerard Akindes (eds), Identity and Nation in African Football: Fans, Community and Clubs. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014

Soccer in North Africa is a high-stakes political contest between fans and autocrats for control of the pitch. Participants in the game bank on the fact that only soccer can capture a deep-seated emotion, passion, and commitment similar to that evoked by Islam among a majority of the population in the region’s post-revolt and autocratic states. As a result, soccer fans have been at the forefront of struggle for power across the region. Inevitably, soccer was also an early casualty, with autocratic leaders suspending matches as soon as mass protests spilled in 2011 into the streets of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Algeria. They understood the pitch’s potential as an opposition rallying point, but often were unable to control it.

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