Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1399, (28 June - 4 July 2018)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1399, (28 June - 4 July 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Literary goals

Nahed Nasr takes stock of the recent boom in Arabic football books

Literary goals

The World Cup heat, which could be felt in Cairo weeks before the start of the tournament, was not confined to billboards, newspapers, magazines and the audiovisual media. Bookshops and stalls filled with any number of volumes, many written or translated especially for the occasion. There has been the Mohamed Salah phenomenon. The Egyptian national team (its quick exit notwithstanding) was participating for the first time in 28 years. And so the potential readership is larger than any other. 


Literary goals

Football in Egypt: the real history of when and how it started (Cairo: Al-Dar Al-Masriya Al-Lubnaniya, pp560) is a new book by Yasser Ayoub, the editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram’s dedicated sports magazine, Al-Ahram Al-Riyadi. In 33 chapters that place football in its political and economic context, Ayoub details the history of the game in Egypt from the second half of the 19th century to the second half of the 20th. “Despite the importance of football to Egyptians since the 1880s there has been no effort to document its history,” he writes in the introduction. “This book is an apology to Egyptian football.” Ayoub attempts a comprehensive history, as accurate and impartial as possible. “Love and Revenge”, for example, asks how it was that, within three years of the arrival of the British in 1882, Egyptians were already playing football; later, by defeating the occupiers at their own game, Egyptians would turn football into a form of peaceful resistance. But politicising the game under Gamal Abdel-Nasser in the 1960s, Ayoub contends, was to have a negative effect on its development. 


Literary goals

Translations include the famous Mexican writer Juan Villoro’s 2006 book Dios Es Redondo or “God is Round” (trans. Mohamed Othman Khalifa, Cairo: Al-Arabi for Publishing and Distribution, pp.335), an imaginative and literary take full of humour and depth. In one chapter, for example, players who wore no. 10 shirts are portrayed like fictional characters: Didi the First, King Pele, Bobby Charlton Who Came Back from the Dead, Cruyff the Pioneer, Platini the Engineer, Maradona the Rebel, Baggio the Fantasy Maker, Zidane the Mythical, and Genius Messi. The Argentine writer Luciano Wernicke’s 2014 Historias Insolitas del Futbol (trans. Mohamed Al-Fouli, Cairo: Tanmia Bookshop, pp.391) is a compendium of the weird and wonderful in the first 18 rounds of the World Cup, from arcane facts to hilarious mishaps. A third book, The Story of a Room Cleaner (Cairo: Masaa Publishing, pp.190), selected and translated by Al-Fouli, features football short stories by three Argentine writers: Osvaldo Soriano, Eduardo Sacheri and Roberto Fontanarrosa. It is to be the first in a sports book series named Suffara (or “Whistle”). Al-Fouli says with titles like “Maradona yes, Galtieri no”, “The World’s Longest Penalty Kick” and “Memoirs of a Right Winger”, the stories have the right mix of imagination and fact, human and athletic subject matter to satisfy football fans and convert non-fans. 


Literary goals

Mo (Cairo, pp.208) by the poet and journalist Ahmad Khaled traces Mohamed Salah’s emergence from the village of Nagrig near Tanta to his joining the Arab Contractors team, his first, and finally his resounding success as a professional in Basel, Chelsea, Fiorentina (on loan), Roma and finally Liverpool. Khaled demonstrates the hurdles Salah had to cross and the heroism he displayed. Employing an analytical approach that contextualises each step on the way, Khaled begins with his own experience as a young footballer in the village (in his case Al-Raisiya near Nag Hammadi). He pays special attention to Salah’s media image, insisting that though he is a religious Muslim Salah should not be regarded as an ambassador of Islam. “Salah is a proud Muslim but this is not why he is a great football player. His talent and his effort to build on it and to improve are the moral of the story.” Written by journalist Emad Anwar, Mohamed Salah: A Champion’s Tale (Cairo: Al-Arabi for Publishing and Distribution, pp.222) contains rather more information than Khaled’s book – and brings the story up to speed with a piece on the injury to which Salah was subjected during Liverpool’s game against Real Madrid in the Champions League a few days before the World Cup. Each chapter includes a QR code which the reader can scan for supporting video and extra material.


Literary goals


Literary goals


Literary goals


Literary goals


Literary goals

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