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1312: Among the Ultras, A Journey With the World’s Most Extreme Fans (Ebury)

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Hardback released March 2020

Ultras are football fans like no others. Fiercely loyal, organised, political and violent, they are a hugely visible and controversial part of the global game, their credo and aesthetic replicated in almost every league everywhere on earth. Their global movement of extreme fandom and politics is also one of the largest youth movements in the world, yet they remain enigmatic: an anti-establishment force that is transforming both football and politics. In this book, James Montague goes underground to uncover the true face of this dissident force for the first time.

Ultras tells the story of how the movement began, emerging from the terraces of post-war Italy, the Balkans and Brazil, and how it has become a global phenomenon that now dominates the stadiums of Madrid, Munich, Moscow and Buenos Aires. With unique insider access, the book explains how ultras have grown into a fiercely political movement that embraces extremes on both the left and right; fighting against the commercialisation of football and society, the resettlement of refugees, the rise of fascism, opposition to dictators and the attempts to control them by the authorities who both covet and fear their power.

Praise for 1312:

“Utterly gripping. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough,” Rory Smith,  New York Times

“Montague is a brilliant and daring guide. Travelling to 25 countries to compare ultra movements around the world, he takes the reader to warehouses, forests, terraces and underpasses … the reader is left as woozy and punch-drunk as if they had been on tour themselves,” Tobias Jones, The Guardian 

“1312 is an impressive feat of book-length reportage … If parts of 1312 make for uneasy reading, the author is unapologetic. “To understand the world”, he writes, “we need to know about it as it is, not what we wish it to be.” Across five continents, over a dozen countries and countless football clubs, each with their own unique fan ecosystem, he has helped us to do just that,” Kieran Pender, The Times Literary Supplement 

You can buy 1312: Among the Ultras here.


The Billionaires Club: The Unstoppable Rise of Football’s Super-Rich Owners (Bloomsbury)


Billionaires Club

Hardback released August 2017.

Winner: Coutts Football Book of the Year, 2018 Sports Book of the Years Awards.

Once upon a time football was run by modest local businessmen. Today it is the plaything of billionaire oligarchs, staggeringly wealthy from oil and gas, from royalty, or from murkier sources. But who are these new masters of the universe? Where did all their money come from? And what do they want with our beautiful game?

While almost cloaked in secrecy, the billionaire owner has to raise his head above the bunker when it comes to football ownership – a rare Achilles heel that allows access to worlds normally off limits journalists and outsiders.

I criss-crosses the world – from Dhaka to Doha, from China to Crewe, from St Louis to London, from Bangkok to Belgium – to profile this new elite, their network of money and their influence that defies geographic boundaries.

The Billionaires Club is part history of club ownership, part in-depth investigation into the money and influence that connects the super-rich around the globe, and part travel book as I follow the ever-shifting trail around the globe in an attempt to reveal the real force behind modern-day football.

At its heart The Billionaires Club is a football book, about some of the biggest clubs in the world. But it is also about something bigger: the world around us, the global economy, where the world is headed and how football has become an essential cog in this machine.

Praise for The Billionaires Club:

“A sprawling, but fascinating, exposé of why billionaires are so keen to bankroll £200,000-a-week sportsmen … the business-minded and the football crazy — and there are many who are both, as this book proves — will find it hard to resist.” – Sunday Times

“Both surprising and insightful …The book does a fine job of examining just why rich men choose to plough oodles of money into football.” – FourFourTwo

“An extraordinary journey across football’s heartlands to try and discover the motivations and backstories behind the men who have hijacked the game.” – Irish Examiner, Sport Books of the Year.

“A fascinating read for the many football fans interested in the developments off the pitch.” – Financial Times

“The best analysis yet of the biggest story in football.” – Ken Early, Irish Times & Second Captains podcast

“The Billionaires Club should be thought of as a football bestiary for our times, a brilliantly researched catalogue of the exotic, the evil and the egregious. From the Tuna barons of South East Asia to the ice cold oligarchs of the post-Soviet tundra, from Wall Street bankers to the sheiks of the gulf’s micro kingdom, James Montague relentlessly exposes the political and economic motivations that have led them all to football, and tracks the consequences of their self-regarding and poisonous presence. The first rule of politics is know your enemy; those who want to stop the catastrophic rise of the one percent in the game are in James Montague’s debt.” – David Goldblatt, author of The Ball is Round

“The working man’s ballet is now a playground and a platform for super-rich owners, authoritarian states willing to buy themselves power and a veneer of respectability – and downright criminals. This is the 21st century football writer’s conundrum: how to investigate this transformation and expose wrongdoings without being spat out by the system. In the end, in most cases, the balancing act turns out to be a Faustian pact. James Montague has had the courage to tear up that tacit contract, by which silence is rewarded with access – and a job. This is not just a ‘good’ book (even if it is that too): it is also a brave and necessary one.” – Philippe Auclair, France Football

You can buy The Billionaires Club here.


Thirty One Nil: On the Road with Football’s Outsiders (Bloomsbury)

Paperback released May 2015

Winner: TalkSport Football Book of the Year, 2015 British Sports Book of the Year awards.

In a tiny, decaying aluminium smelting town in southern Tajikistan, a short drive from a raging war zone, Afghanistan take on Palestine in the first Asian qualifier for 2014’s World Cup in Brazil. Every player on both teams is risking something by playing: their careers, their families, even their lives. Yet, along with thousands of other footballers backed by millions of supporters, they all dream of snatching one of the precious 32 places at the finals; and so begins a three-year epic struggle – long before the usual suspects start their higher-profile qualifying campaigns under the spotlight.

Named after the greatest victory (and defeat) that the World Cup qualifiers have ever seen (Australia’s 31-0 victory over American Samoa), Thirty-One Nil is the story of how footballers from all corners of the globe begin their journey chasing a place at the World Cup Finals. It celebrates the part-time priests, princes and hopeless chancers who dream of making it to Brazil, in defiance of the staggering odds stacked against them. It tells the story of teams who have struggled for their very existence through political and social turmoil, from which they will very occasionally emerge into international stardom.

From the endlessly humiliated San Marino to lowly Haiti; from war-torn Lebanon to the oppressed and fleet-footed players of Eritrea, Thirty-One Nil gets intimately and often dangerously close to some of the world’s most extraordinary teams, and tells their exceptional stories.

Praise for Thirty One Nil:

“The Indiana Jones of soccer journalism.” – Sports Illustrated

Thirty-One Nil is well worthy of entry to the canon of great football reportage.” – The Independent

“A gripping tale . . . Montague’s book is a tale of dreaming despite the odds, and its strength lies in the many compelling individuals featured in its pages.” – South China Morning Post

“A compelling, exciting book . . . let Thirty-One Nil take you on an emotional journey that rekindles your love of international football.” – These Football Times

“As heartwarming as it is heartbreaking.” – FourFourTwo

“A vibrant, at times emotional, chronicle.” – Independent on Sunday

“Vibrant and colourful . . . Thirty-One Nil is a brilliant read.” – Back Page Football

Just before publication CNN ran a six part serialisation of Thirty One Nil. You can read it here.

You can also buy Thirty One Nil here.


When Friday Comes: Football, War and Revolution in the Middle East (deCoubertin)



Revised paperback released May 2013

Winner: Best New Writer at the 2009 British Sports Book of the Year awards.

Over seven years I travelled to every country in the Middle East uncovering stories of football’s survival and resurgence. Whilst the region has often been divided, football is the Middle East’s great uniting thread. When Friday Comes takes you to every corner of the Middle East – from Yemen to Syria, Egypt to Iran – where football thrives and where the game played an important, sometimes crucial, part in the Arab Spring. But, more importantly, the Middle East and its extreme wealth also provides a window on this rising power, and how football in the rest of the world could be changed forever.

Praise for When Friday Comes:

“You don’t have to be a football fan to like this. When Friday Comes takes the reader on a fascinating journey that teaches as much about the Middle East as about wannabe West Ham fans in Israel” – ESPN

“Funny, exciting and thrilling, with tragedy at every turn, it’s a deep but rewarding read” – Jonathan Wilson, FourFourTwo Book of the Month.

“In a world that demonises the “Arab street”, Montague gives us a glimpse of just how playful and human it can be” – David Goldblatt, The Independent

“A courageous, amusing and informative work” – Daily Telegraph

“Hugely entertaining . . . one of the most fascinating sports books of 2008” – Richard Moore, Scotland on Sunday

You can buy When Friday Comes here.


Ultras: How Egypt’s Football Fans Toppled a Dictator (deCoubertin Short Books)


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E-book released September 2013

In January 2011 millions of Egyptians took part in mass protests that ended the iron rule of its military dictator, Hosni Mubarak. Football supporters across the country set aside their differences and played an instrumental role in the demonstrations that led to Mubarak’s deposition. A year later elements allegedly loyal to the old regime took a terrible revenge during a match played in Port Said, killing 72 Al Ahly supporters in an incident that shocked the world.

I was the only western journalist to be given full unrestricted access to the Ahlawy; a passionate but largely obscure group of Al Ahly fans. I had first met them in 2007, as they just started out, before they grew and went on to play a vital role in the Egyptian revolution.

Ultras is the story of the Ahlawy, from when they numbered just a few hundred committed Al Ahly fans, through to the mass protests in Tahrir Square, which helped depose Mubarak, the horrors of Port Said, the World Club Championships in Japan, and beyond.

Their story demonstrates how the dividing line between football and politics is paper thin, and how a hitherto unknown group of fans played a pivotal role in shaping the destiny of a nation.

Ultras is extracted from the revised edition of When Friday Comes.

You can buy the e-book of Ultras here.


When Friday Comes: Football in the War Zone (Mainstream)


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First edition released August 2008

While religion often violently divides the Middle East, the countries of the world’s most explosive region share one thing – a deep and obsessive love of the beautiful game. When Friday Comes observes the region’s culture and politics through the prism of football. To understand the game in the Middle East is to understand its people. For as much as football forms an unlikely common thread between different countries, the sport also reflects what is unique in the national characters of those who play, support and organise it.

One thought on “Books

  1. James, your work has both compelled and inspired me. As a Palestinian who loves football, I couldn’t wait to read all of your books. So far I have only finished 31-Nil, I know the others will be just as magical and inspiring. You are by far one of my favorite authors and I cant wait for you to release more about the incredible power the game of football has. Thanks for all you do to inspire and spread the incredible message of sport. Thanks to you, I have come to truly appreciate the power football has in both healing wounds and creating friendships. Keep doing what you do, and I cant wait to read all you have to offer!
    -Ahmad Al-Husseini


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