Troublesome Thugs or Respectable Rebels? Class, Martyrdom and Cairo’s Revolutionary Ultras


  • Carl Rommel Zentrum Moderner Orient



Football, Masculinity, Class, Martyrdom, Egypt, Revolutionary Politics


This ethnographic article explores the politics of Egypt's Ultras football supporters. The Ultras have frequently been heralded as some of the Egyptian Revolution's most prominent rebels, in particular, after the Port Said stadium massacre in February 2012, when 72 Ultras members were killed. However, this essay focuses on the earlier phase of violent clashes in central Cairo when the Ultras were highly ambivalent about the ongoing protests. As the article shows, the fan groups were hesitant to join the demonstrations, which at the time were heavily associated with "thuggery" (balṭaga). Only after the death of one of its members did the Ultras whole-heartedly take on their rebellious subjectivity.


Carl Rommel, Zentrum Moderner Orient

earned his PhD in anthropology from SOAS, University of London, in 2015. His PhD research deals with the changing emotional politics of Egyptian football, before and after the 2011 Revolution. His research interests include emotionality, subject formation, nationalism, media infrastructures and the ethnography of social change. Currently, he is an associated researcher at the Berlin based research institute Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO) where he works on his project "New Men for the New Nation: Examining Youth Development, Sports and Masculinity within the Post-Revolutionary Egyptian State Bureaucracy." He is also in the process of turning his PhD into a monograph.






Rommel, C. „Troublesome Thugs or Respectable Rebels? Class, Martyrdom and Cairo’s Revolutionary Ultras“. Middle East - Topics & Arguments, Bd. 6, Mai 2016, S. 33-42, doi:10.17192/meta.2016.6.3788.