Skip to content

Bob Bradley goes to Egypt

May 17, 2012, 2:29 PM EDT

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. James Rodriguez to be unveiled by Real Madrid on Tuesday, join club for U.S. tour

    Jul 22, 2014, 12:10 AM EDT

    Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates after scoring during the group C World Cup soccer match between Japan and Colombia at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) AP

    22-year-old will complete his $108 million move and be introduced at the Santiago Bernabéu.

  2. Swansea set to sign Sigurdsson, Montero, see Davies, Vorm leave for Tottenham

    Jul 21, 2014, 11:09 PM EDT

    Gylfi-Sigurdsson-Tottenham-vs-Watford_2811248

    A Davies-for-Sigurdsson swap and the purchase of the Ecudorian winger will give Garry Monk a glut of options in attacking midfield.

  3. Yaya Touré, David Silva named to Manchester City’s Champions Cup squad

    Jul 21, 2014, 10:04 PM EDT

    Toure Getty Images

    While six World Cup stars will miss the tour, the Citizens still bring a talented squad to the U.S.

  4. Xavi Hernández reportedly inching closer to New York City FC

    Jul 21, 2014, 9:25 PM EDT

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA

    The Spanish midfielder is expected to return to Spain this week to finalize his departure from the club.

  5. ACL surgery ends Hendry Thomas’s season in Dallas

    Jul 21, 2014, 7:58 PM EDT

    hendry_thomas Getty Images

    Honduran midfielder will miss six to eight months.

  6. New report kicks off another round of Las Vegas expansion talk for MLS

    Jul 21, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT

    Las Vegas

    Group is pushing for a $160-$200 million venue, claiming to be on MLS’s “short list.”

  7. Gedion Zelalem getting his chance to impress with Arsenal’s first team

    Jul 21, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT

    Arsenal v Galatasaray - Emirates Cup Getty Images

    The 17-year-old potential U.S. international played along side Aaron Ramsey and About Diaby on Saturday.

  8. PST’s Major League Soccer Player of the Week: Sporting Kansas City’s Benny Feilhaber

    Jul 21, 2014, 4:32 PM EDT

    sporting_kc Getty Images

    How does a player who snared four goals in two games miss out? Robbie Keane came up just short.

  9. Qatar/Russia World Cup bidding investigation delayed until September

    Jul 21, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

    interim logo interim logo

    The findings were due in late July, but will have to wait. Will Qatar and Russia hold onto their World Cup hosting duties?

  10. Report: Bayern Munich confirms Julian Green on first team for US trip

    Jul 21, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    Julian Green AP

    Those in New Jersey and Portland could see a whole lot of Julian Green in the next couple weeks.

  11. VIDEO: Steven Gerrard’s top five goals for England

    Jul 21, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    England midfielder Steven Gerrard attend Getty Images

    Relive five of Stevie G’s best goals over his 14-year England career.

  12. WATCH: Arsenal attempts New York accents; Flamini is really bad at it

    Jul 21, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT

    Arsenal will be without defensive stalwart, Mathieu Flamini, for Saturday's match against Liverpool. Getty Images

    An amusing video of NYC accents atop the US national anthem gives Arsenal a victory in viral video.

  13. Who should be England’s new captain? Here’s the top five contenders…

    Jul 21, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT

    England's Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the group D World Cup soccer match between Uruguay and England at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) AP

    Will Wazza take the armband from Stevie G? Not so fast, there are some other chaps to contemplate first…

  14. Liga MX wrap: Red cards a-plenty as road teams shine

    Jul 21, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Mexico Soccer AP

    No goals for Americans south of the border, but there was plenty of actions as the 2014 Apertura took its first steps.

  15. Sporting Kansas City declare themselves “greatest team in MLS”… Are they?

    Jul 21, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    sporting_kc Getty Images

    What makes an MLS franchise great? Who is the greatest? Is there a right or wrong answer?

  16. Report: Dunga to be named Brazil’s new manager

    Jul 21, 2014, 1:14 PM EDT

    Carlos Dunga

    Former World Cup winning captain to be handed the reins for second time in four years.

  17. Stuart Holden joins NBC crew to call midweek MLS clash

    Jul 21, 2014, 12:59 PM EDT

    Twitter.com/StuHolden Twitter.com/StuHolden

    “Football at Fenway” will have a fine follow-up, as American international Holden joins the doubleheader broadcast of San Jose and Chicago from Buck Shaw Stadium.

  18. Why would Chelsea want to re-sign Didier Drogba?

    Jul 21, 2014, 12:17 PM EDT

    Germany Soccer Champions League Final

    Will Drogba return to Stamford Bridge this summer?

  19. Juventus sign Patrice Evra from Manchester United

    Jul 21, 2014, 11:24 AM EDT

    Evra Getty Images

    Another veteran departs Old Trafford, as Evra signs for Juventus.

  20. Steven Gerrard retires from international soccer after glittering England career

    Jul 21, 2014, 10:29 AM EDT

    England and Liverpool skipper Gerrard is the finest midfielder of his generation Getty Images

    After 14 years playing for the Three Lions, Gerrard calls it quits.