This paper explores how Arab writers in diaspora present football in their literary works. Through an examination of Rabih Alameddine’s I, the Divine, Laila Lalami’s Secret Son and Leila Aboulela’s Lyrics Alley, the paper highlights the way in which Arab novelists in diaspora draw on the game’s international popularity to supplement and clarify the themes that these novels explore. Specifically, this paper investigates how the three novels portray the relationship between the individual and the nation and it suggests that these novels may be read within a context of a growing Arab involvement in international football over the past few years, including recent investments by state members of the Gulf Cooperation Council in European football, the emergence of international football superstars of Arab descent, the direct and indirect influences of football on recent socio economic and political transformations in Arab countries, including the Arab Spring, and FIFA’s controversial decision to stage the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Thanks to their position between cultures, these writers render football as a site on which socioeconomic, political and cultural discourses converge. By depicting the quotidian experiences of culturally and ethnically varied characters, the novels offer divergent perspectives on the game’s entanglement with global and local influences and football emerges as a central issue around which the above writers construct some of the most important episodes in the three novels. In this way the three novels demonstrate that the game’s international popularity makes it intricately linked with the daily experiences of the characters they depict.