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. Phillip Lahm: Real Madrid the “team to beat” in Champions League

    Sep 14, 2014, 11:58 PM EDT

    Czech Republic Soccer Champions League AP

    Phillip Lahm sees Real Madrid as the Champions League favorites.

  2. WATCH: Premier League Sunday recap of Manchester United downing QPR

    Sep 14, 2014, 11:44 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Manchester United blanked QPR, 4-0, in the only match that Premier League match that occurred on Sunday.

  3. Philippe Coutinho open to an extension at Liverpool

    Sep 14, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Borussia Dortmund - Pre Season friendly Getty Images

    Philippe Coutinho said that he would entertain an extension at Liverpool

  4. Jeremy Menez shines for AC Milan in riveting victory over Parma

    Sep 14, 2014, 7:28 PM EDT

    Jeremy+Menez+qojlhLjziL0m Getty Images

    Jeremy Menez tallied a brace and a spectacular goal as AC Milan edged Parma in a high-scoring affair.

  5. WATCH: FC Dallas striker Blas Perez nails very steep-angled goal

    Sep 14, 2014, 7:01 PM EDT

    blas_perez Getty Images

    A very tough goal scored by FC Dallas striker Blas Perez from an MLS match last night.

  6. President Obama follows through on World Cup beer bet

    Sep 14, 2014, 5:34 PM EDT

    Barack Obama AP

    President Obama sent the Belgian embassy a pack of beer after he lost a World Cup bet on Twitter.

  7. Cristiano Ronaldo could demand $813,225-per-week to make La Liga exit

    Sep 14, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo AP

    Ronaldo may eye a even bigger contract at the end of this season, but not at Real Madrid.

  8. WATCH: New stars show up for Man United in first test

    Sep 14, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Manchester United Angel Di Maria AP

    NBC’s Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Earle and Kyle Martino discuss the performances of Manchester United’s new players in a 4-0 drubbing of QPR.

  9. Casillas: Real Madrid fans ‘entitled to complain’ after Atletico loss

    Sep 14, 2014, 3:29 PM EDT

    Spain v Netherlands: Group B - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Goalkeeper Iker Casillas wasn’t opposed to fans whistling at him during Real Madrid’s match vs. Atletico Madrid.

  10. WATCH: Louis van Gaal urges Manchester United to “make a new start” after QPR win

    Sep 14, 2014, 2:47 PM EDT

    VanGaal Getty Images

    After a comprehensive 90 minutes for their first win of the year, van Gaal is bullish on the Red Devils’ chances going forward.

  11. Report: Alan Pardew has one game to save his job

    Sep 14, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT

    Pardew Getty Images

    With Newcastle’s managerial situation deteriorating rapidly, there is one week to turn things around.

  12. WATCH: Manchester United honor 12-year Old Trafford vet Rio Ferdinand before QPR match

    Sep 14, 2014, 1:28 PM EDT

    Ferdinand Getty Images

    After 450 matches for Manchester United, Rio Ferdinand returned to Old Trafford on the opposing end for the first time.

  13. Julian Green starts for Hamburg in first Bundesliga appearance

    Sep 14, 2014, 12:12 PM EDT

    Green AP

    The Bayern Munich loanee makes his professional league debut.

  14. WATCH: Angel Di Maria opens his Manchester United scoring account for 1-0 lead over QPR

    Sep 14, 2014, 11:38 AM EDT

    DiMaria Getty Images

    It’s the first goal of his Premier League career for the $99 million man.

  15. Watch Live: Manchester United vs QPR (Lineups)

    Sep 14, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT

    Falcao AP

    Falcao is not in the starting lineup in his first Manchester United game available for selection.

  16. French report says Mathieu Debuchy out for two months

    Sep 14, 2014, 9:51 AM EDT

    Debuchy Getty Images

    Early estimates have Debuchy missing crucial Premier League matches against Chelsea as well as the North London derby.

  17. Reports say Alan Pardew on thin ice as Newcastle front office eyes Hull’s Steve Bruce

    Sep 14, 2014, 9:13 AM EDT

    PardewOut Getty Images

    Time could be up on Alan Pardew’s up and down tenure at Newcastle United.

  18. Injury plagued Holger Badstuber needs surgery again

    Sep 14, 2014, 8:34 AM EDT

    Badstuber

    A thigh tear will mean the man who missed two years with an ACL tear will yet again see the sidelines for an extended period of time.

Featured video

Week 4: Saturday recap