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date: 17 September 2021

Abstract and Keywords

For the past 5,000 years, sports have been an essential part of Middle East history. With roots in religious ceremonies and royal courts, their birth, life, and development into the twenty-first century have intersected with important cultural and historical processes. Sports activities have been influenced by these processes and have helped shape them as well. As elsewhere, sports, especially football (soccer), have been important agents of social integration and a major arena in which ethnic and religious identities and conceptions and practices of gender and class are played out. Leaders and regimes, from Mesopotamian kings and Egyptian pharaohs to contemporary dictators, have cynically used sports to further their aims. Matches have been a locale where conflicts were manifested and violence has erupted. At the same time, sports have created a place where fraternity and cooperation are common, as a source of pride, joy, independence, and dignity.

Keywords: ancient Near East, Islam, women athletes, Egypt, Israel, soccer, political uses

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