Skip to content

Bob Bradley goes to Egypt

May 17, 2012, 2:29 PM EST

Egypt's head coach Bob Bradley of the U.S. reacts during their friendly soccer match against RD Congo in Doha Reuters

That Bob Bradley is coaching the Egyptian national team is not news. That the team, the country, and the coach have been through a lot recently is also not news. But man, this piece by Wayne Drehs in ESPN The Magazine’s International Soccer issue really puts it all in perspective.

The story centers around the former United States coach’s relationship with Egyptian star Mohamed Aboutrika, “an aging superstar who commands respect, a hero to fans.” The “Smiling Assassin,” a key figure in the Port Siad tragedy, is nearing the end of his career. The American must decide whether to include the attacking force on the roster for an upcoming friendly.

Bradley leaves him off:

Aboutrika is crushed. He had dreamed of taking his country to the World Cup, and 2014 likely will be his last chance. He spends the first day after the news alone, fishing. The next day, when he emerges and the media shove cameras and tape recorders in his face, he praises Bradley and insists it is on himself to improve.

But in the days and weeks that follow, Bradley begins to second-guess his decision. He listens as other players gush about Aboutrika’s leadership. He walks the streets of Cairo, where nearly every fan he meets, from taxi drivers to schoolchildren, pleads with him: “Aboutrika! Aboutrika! Must have Aboutrika!” During this stretch, Aboutrika’s play improves. Seven days after New Year’s, he comes on at the half of an Al Ahly match against German giant Bayern Munich and slices a pass through a trio of defenders that sets up an equalizing goal. The more Bradley considers it, the more he believes he has made a mistake.

On the evening of Feb. 1, Bradley sits before the television in his Cairo apartment to watch Al Ahly’s match against Al Masry in Port Said. He keeps an eye on Aboutrika; Bradley plans to meet him in the coming days to talk about the national team.

Disaster strikes that game, dramatically altering the lives of two men and the country they call home. What follows is heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time, and Drehs expertly chronicles the narrative.

But enough from me. Just go read it. (And there’s also another massively long feature from Drehs.)

Latest Posts
  1. City’s Pellegrini concerned at home form after Arsenal, Middlesbrough losses

    Jan 25, 2015, 11:33 PM EST

    Britain Soccer FA Cup AP

    “I am concerned, not because of Chelsea but because we didn’t score in our last two home games,” Pellegrini said.

  2. Eto’o passes physical at Sampdoria, move from Everton all but official

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:50 PM EST

    twitter.com/sampdoria twitter.com/sampdoria

    The 33-year-old Cameroonian striker joins a Sampdoria side currently tied for third in the table with 34 points.

  3. Rodgers: Sturridge could face Chelsea in League Cup, certain to be back for Saturday vs. West Ham

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:13 PM EST

    Liverpool FC Training Session Getty Images

    “If he’s not ready for Tuesday then he’ll be back, for sure, against West Ham next weekend,” Rodgers said.

  4. Scotland, Wigan mid joins Chicago Fire as third Designated Player

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:22 PM EST

    twitter.com/chicagofire twitter.com/chicagofire

    Maloney turned 32 on Saturday and will be unveiled by Chicago on Monday.

  5. Sepp Blatter keeps talking trash at UEFA regarding FIFA election

    Jan 25, 2015, 8:31 PM EST

    FBL-FIFA-BALLONDOR-AWARD Getty Images

    Sepp Blatter: Kind of like “The Godfather”. But let’s be clear, we’re talking “The Godfather: Part III”.

  6. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Valencia win in top-four battle; Juventus grow title lead to 7

    Jan 25, 2015, 6:30 PM EST

    Daniel Parejo, Valencia CF Daniel Parejo, Valencia CF

    There’s a new top-four team in Spain, while little has changed in Italy, both for good and bad.

  7. Africa Cup of Nations roundup: Congo, Equatorial Guinea victorious in group finales, advance

    Jan 25, 2015, 4:28 PM EST

    Javier Balboa, Equatorial Guinea Javier Balboa, Equatorial Guinea

    Two of eight quarterfinals places were clinched on Sunday as the late drama continues at AFCON 2015.

  8. Wenger confirms move for Brazilian defender is “very, very close”

    Jan 25, 2015, 2:59 PM EST

    Paulista Getty Images

    A work permit still must be obtained, but Arsenal is on the cusp of securing some defensive depth.

  9. Alexandre Lacazette injured at the worst possible time

    Jan 25, 2015, 2:07 PM EST

    Lacazette Getty Images

    With 10 goals in his last six games, all of that is coming to a screeching halt.

  10. FA Cup Roundup: Upsets halted with West Ham, Villa, Arsenal wins

    Jan 25, 2015, 12:54 PM EST

    Rosicky Getty Images

    After yesterday’s FA Cup craziness, things were restored to normal today as all three Premier League sides went through, despite some nervy moments.

  11. Standard Liege fans get “traitor” Steven Defour sent off

    Jan 25, 2015, 11:43 AM EST

    Defour Getty Images

    Anderlecht fans responded to their former player – now with their arch rivals – in a very mean way. Defour reacted accordingly.

  12. Pogba scores again, four in four, and Juventus keeps on churning

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:46 AM EST

    Pogba Getty Images

    Four goals in his last four games has Paul Pogba on top of the world.

  13. Aston Villa announces Fabian Delph extension before FA Cup match

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:16 AM EST

    Delph Getty Images

    Aston Villa secured the services of midfielder Fabian Delph, and while that should have been an exciting announcement, the club blew it up a little too much and it fell flat on its face.

  14. Report: Roma stalling on Salah could allow others to pounce

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:23 AM EST

    Salah Getty Images

    Mohamed Salah just needed signatures to make him a Roma player, but now the Italian club could be headed in a different direction.

  15. Rodgers says Balotelli needs to vastly improve before playing for Liverpool

    Jan 25, 2015, 7:52 AM EST

    Balotelli Getty Images

    Which is Balotelli and which is the practice dummy? It sounds like it’s harder for Brendan Rodgers to tell every day.

  16. Radamel Falcao’s agent: I wish Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge, not Louis van Gaal

    Jan 24, 2015, 11:00 PM EST

    Radamel Falcao & Louis van Gaal, Manchester United Radamel Falcao & Louis van Gaal, Manchester United

    The bitterness is flowing freely from Falcao’s agent as he plots the Colombian striker’s next move to a “world’s best-seven team.”

  17. Italy head coach Antonio Conte supports Sebastian Giovinco’s move to MLS

    Jan 24, 2015, 8:45 PM EST

    Antonio Conte & Sebastian Giovinco, Juventus Antonio Conte & Sebastian Giovinco, Juventus

    If MLS is good enough for Italian national teamers, why isn’t it good enough for U.S. national teamers?

  18. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Barcelona, Madrid clubs win; AC Milan continue to free fall

    Jan 24, 2015, 7:45 PM EST

    Lionel Messi and Neymar, FC Barcelona Getty Images

    Barcelona were stunning as they put a half-dozen past Elche, while Real stumbled to victory. Elsewhere, AC Milan are very bad.

  19. USMNT U-20s defeat El Salvador, 2-0, qualify for 2015 U-20 World Cup

    Jan 24, 2015, 7:04 PM EST

    FIFA U20 World Cup Trophy Tour Auckland Getty Images

    The Baby Yanks are headed back to the Big Dance this summer.

Featured video

Top five Premier League goals: Week 22