In January 2011 millions of Egyptians took part in mass protests that ended the iron rule of its military dictator, Hosni Mubarak. Across the Middle East, from Algeria to Yemen, millions took to the streets, overthrowing despotic and violent regimes that had clung onto power for generations. Meanwhile, on the football pitch, a different sort of revolution was taking place. The wealthy Gulf-based owners of Manchester City plotted the club's dominance of English football while Qatar celebrated its unlikely accession as 2022 World Cup hosts. Middle Eastern money impacted the fortunes of clubs in England, Spain, France and Italy. There has never been much to unite the Middle East. For decades, centuries even, words and images of a hostile, alien land have dominated the news agenda. But just under the surface, beneath the wars, the insurgencies and revolutions, there is one thing the region can agree on: football. For seven years James Montague has travelled the Middle East uncovering stories of the beautiful game's survival and resurgence.
Whilst the region has often been divided, sometimes violently, along religious, political and ethnic lines, football is the Middle East's one, great uniting thread. Montague travelled to every country in the Middle East, from Yemen to Gaza to Lebanon to Egypt to Iran, to uncover the stories that proved much more than a region's obsession with the game. When Friday Comes is an account of Montague's journey across this volatile land, that saw him man the barricades with Egypt's football ultras, meet Libya's revolutionary national team players, chew qhat with the Yemeni FA and watch Hezbollah's very own football team in Lebanon. What started with a journey to understand a region blighted by despots, ended with the Arab Spring and the Middle East's huge wealth in natural resources being used to start a new era of dominance in world football. When Friday Comes will take you to every corner of the Middle East where football thrives and where the game played an important, sometimes crucial, part in the Arab Spring.
But, more importantly, the Middle East and its extreme wealth also provides a window on this rising power, and how football in the rest of the world could be changed forever.
Publisher: deCoubertin Books