The History of Sport in the Arab World

deadline for submissions: 
February 28, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
The International Journal of the History of Sport
contact email: 

The International Journal of the History of Sport – Special Issue Call for Papers

The History of Sport in the Arab World

As Ottoman influence began to wane across the Arab world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, European powers intent on increasing their colonial empires filled the resultant vacuum. Sport played a significant role in this expansion, asserting European superiority while simultaneously inculcating within the native inhabitants what were deemed properly civilised behaviours. However, a cultural renaissance was also underway in many parts of North Africa and the Middle East during this period that was becoming increasingly apparent on the same football pitches and sports clubs as local elites sought to galvanise their fellow citizens and create new, independent nations. This marked the beginning of a rich tradition of western sports in the Arab world that has existed now for over a century and culminated in Qatar’s hosting of the world’s most watched sporting event in 2022, the FIFA World Cup. A combination of sporting success, achievement, controversy, and at times tragedy has defined the intervening period for many Arab nations as they participated in various Olympiads, World Cup tournaments, and other regional events. At a domestic level, sport played a significant part in transforming those same societies, instigating unexpected change by reshaping not just the physical landscape but also the values and ideals of the citizenry of the Arab world. For some, sport became an effective tool in nurturing national identities and desired values. For others, it was a beacon of resistance in the face of unprecedented violence. Although at times viewed with suspicion by political and/or religious institutions, sport also showed itself to be a great unifier in times of crisis.

However, the number of sporting histories detailing these events is noticeably small and heavily skewed towards North Africa and the Levant. Such paucity is even more prominent when one attempts to seek out sporting histories of the Gulf States, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Yemen, whether in journal article form or standalone text. This in turn has given life to a claim often made before and during the recent Qatar World Cup that Arab countries do not have a history of sport. Ultimately, sport lies at the heart of Arab society and this special issue by The International Journal of the History of Sportaims to highlight this by encouraging readers to think differently about the emergence and existence of sport in the region. It seeks to explore the complex historical place of sport in the Arab world, one that has existed for generations but remains widely neglected by sports studies.

The International Journal of the History of Sport welcomes submissions from historians, sports scholars, and other researchers of individual articles of up to 8000 words that discuss, examine, or review the historical presence, place, and function of sport in Arab society. We especially encourage Arab scholars and researchers to contribute to this call by taking postcolonial, decolonial, and/or diasporic approaches. Research articles might focus on one of the following indicative themes, or others at the author’s discretion:

  • Traditional/heritage sports in the Arab world
  • Community sports and sports as development
  • Sport and the civil society
    • Sport, nationalism, transnationalism, and the nation-state
    • Sport and politics/diplomacy/international relations
    • Spectators, sporting spaces, and sport institutions
    • Arab sport clubs and/or athlete performance
      • The Olympic Movement in the Arab world
      • Sport as a form of protest/resistance
      • Sport governance
      • Sport and identity
      • Sport and the diaspora/migration
      • Sport and education
      • Sport and religion
      • Sport and gender
      • Sport and the body
      • Representations of sport in Arab media (newspapers, magazines etc)
      • Event hosting in the Arab world
      • Arab participation and success in the Asian Games, the Asian Cup, the Pan-Arab Games, and other regional events


Submission Instructions

Call for abstracts deadline: Feb 28, 2024.

Notification of acceptance of abstracts: April 30, 2024.

First draft submission: October 31, 2024.

Final manuscript submission: April 30, 2025.

Submission of abstracts: Send the abstract to Thomas Ross Griffin ( before February 28, 2024. Abstracts must be in English and 300 words (maximum) excluding the title and authors.

For all inquiries, please contact Thomas Ross Griffin at