The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer - AMA

Feb 8, 2018

I am an award-winning journalist and scholar who looks at faultllines in the Middle East and North Africa through the prism of soccer. I am the author of the acclaimed blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, and the author of several books, two of which are on soccer in the Middle East: The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer and Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa. I co-authored Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, which looks at why democratization worked in Southeast Asia and failed in the Middle East. My next book, China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom, is scheduled for publication this summer.


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Do you play soccer too? If not, do you play other sports?

Feb 14, 6:27AM EST0

I'm afIraid I'm noit a sports fan. All i do is work out 

Feb 14, 12:18PM EST0

Among all the awards you received as a journalist, which one are you most proud of?

Feb 10, 9:22PM EST0

Probably my Pulitzer nominations

Feb 11, 1:14PM EST0

When did you start writing? When did you realize you have this talent of putting great thoughts into words?

Feb 10, 5:56PM EST0

I don't know if its a talent, its often a formula. I started as a student to publish

Feb 11, 1:14PM EST0

Did you get any formal education in writing, sports or politics?

Feb 10, 7:11AM EST0

I was a foreign correspondent for four decades

Feb 11, 1:13PM EST0

What is the connection between sports and politics, how are they similar?

Feb 10, 6:33AM EST0

It's not a question of being similiar, its an inextricable relationship that needs to be governed

Feb 11, 1:13PM EST0

How do you market your books in order to reach more of your target readers?

Feb 10, 12:17AM EST0

Book launches, book reviews and via my platform

Feb 11, 1:12PM EST0

Are most of your readers based in the Middle East or do you have plenty of readers from other parts of the world too?

Feb 9, 8:27PM EST0

They are across the globe

Feb 9, 8:32PM EST0

Did you have to travel the world for research? For instance, did you go to China to have better resources for your next book?

Feb 9, 7:33PM EST0

I travel much  of the year, including frequently to China

Feb 9, 8:23PM EST0

Why soccer and not any other sport?

Feb 9, 12:36PM EST0

Because its the world's most popular sport and the discipline that plaid the most political and social role in the Middle East

Feb 9, 8:22PM EST0

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Feb 9, 12:17PM EST0

Not really

Feb 9, 12:29PM EST0

What is the best feedback you’ve ever gotten from your readers?

Feb 9, 12:08PM EST0

When readers find it interesting and helpful

Feb 9, 12:29PM EST0

Are you a full-time author or do you also have other jobs?

Feb 9, 7:04AM EST0


Feb 9, 7:20AM EST0

Who are your target readers for your sports and politics books?

Feb 9, 5:51AM EST0

My readership runs the gamut from government to politicians, academics, intellectuals, policy wonks, and those interested in current affairs and/or the Middle East, Southeast and South Asia, and the Islamic world to sports executives and sports fans

Feb 9, 7:20AM EST0

Do you think the Middle East will soon be a peaceful region? Could sports contribute to that and how if so?

Feb 9, 5:19AM EST0

TGhe Middle East is in transitions. Transitions usually take up to a quarter of century. In my mind the Middle East is only at the beginning. Sports can only play a constructive role if the environment encourages bridge-building. That is currently not the case.

Feb 9, 7:18AM EST0

Do you ever receive negative feedback and/or criticisms about your books too? How do you deal with this?

Feb 9, 3:31AM EST0

I deal with a very polarized world and as a result a lot of response. I enter into a conversation if at all possible

Feb 9, 4:17AM EST0

If you could interview anyone dead or alive in sports or politics, who would it be?

Feb 9, 2:54AM EST0

Good question. Probably, the head of the Asian Football Confederation, Sheikh Ibrahim, who for good reason dislikes me

Feb 9, 4:16AM EST0

What are some of the best tips you can share with aspiring writers?

Feb 8, 8:02PM EST0

be clear why you are writing and who your target audience is

Feb 8, 8:20PM EST0

What are your general views on religion? Have their changed over the course of your career with all the things you’ve seen and learnt?

Feb 8, 5:25PM EST0

I'm not religious and have not been for a very long time

Feb 8, 8:20PM EST0

Do you self-publish your books or do you work with publishers?

Feb 8, 4:51PM EST0

i work with publishers

Feb 8, 8:19PM EST0

How do you go about fact-checking your books’ contents to ensure accuracy in information?

Feb 8, 2:46PM EST0

talking to multiple sources, checking and doublechecking

Feb 8, 8:19PM EST0

What is the goal of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer? What do you want to achieve with it?

Feb 8, 6:09AM EST0

contribute grounded and informed analysis so that people can make informed decisions 

Feb 8, 8:18PM EST1

Would you consider yourself primarily a sports journalist or a political journalist?

Feb 7, 7:05PM EST0

political. I use sports as a prism

Feb 8, 8:17PM EST0

What is your ultimate dream that you wish to achieve as an author?

Feb 7, 5:05PM EST0

I'm where I want to be. I am widely read and I can see impact of my writing

Feb 7, 6:59PM EST0

Aside from soccer, do you write about other sports too?

Feb 7, 12:40PM EST0

I'm afraid not

Feb 7, 6:59PM EST0

Is ultra-conservative Islam going to last much longer do you think? Isn’t it hard to hold on to those values with such an ease to access information and knowledge nowadays? Same for any conservative religion, do you think generally religions will adapt and change or completely disappear in our lifetime?

Feb 7, 12:09PM EST0

They certainly wont disappear. Nothing has had throughout human history the pull of religion. Ultra-conservative Islam will certainly evolve but it will be a process, it wont happen overnight. Moreover, it is in some countries deeper entrenched than in others

Feb 7, 12:27PM EST0

What motivates you to write about serious topics in a world where people prefer to flick through pictures of celebrities and discuss the latest phones?

Feb 7, 10:26AM EST0

Personal interest as well as professional deformation. This has been and still is my career

Feb 7, 11:33AM EST0

There is a lot said about the conditions of workers and multiple deaths in the constructions for Qatar 2022 World Cup, what are your views on that? Do you think those could be avoided? How do you explain such a rich country cutting on paying workers and creating safe work conditions?

Feb 7, 9:05AM EST0

The labour regime is not uniquely Qatari, it exists across the Gulf. Fact of the matter that as a result of pressure by human rights groups and trade unions using the World Cup as leverage improvement of working and living conditions are improving. There is still a ways to go but this would not have happened without the World Cup

Feb 7, 11:32AM EST0

Do you earn money from your blog? If so, how do you do it?

Feb 7, 4:54AM EST0

My goal was not to make money off the blog. It was to popularize the blog and syndicated colum and to achieve widespread distribution. That still is my primary goal. Having said that, I do make money off the blog, but not in a way that can be easily emulated. I was hired seven years ago by a prestigious university as a professor specifically to write my blog.

Feb 7, 5:40AM EST0

Where do you see the Middle East in terms of progress of Human rights and democracy in the next decade?

Feb 7, 4:51AM EST0

In the short and middle term its likely to go from bad to worse. Autocrats are tightening their grip in a world that is de-emphasizing human rights and focusing on nationalism, populism and protectionism

Feb 7, 11:35AM EST0
What is China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom about? When will it be released?
Feb 7, 3:14AM EST0

It scheduled for publication in July. You can find a paper of mine with the same title on my blog.

Feb 7, 5:36AM EST0

Ask me anything as it relates to the politics of soccer, global and regional sports governance, the Qatar 2022 World Cup and more generally, the multiple crises in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Pakistan, jihadism, ultra-conservative Islam, and China's Belt and Road initiative.

Feb 6, 8:35PM EST0
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