Egypt FA decides to keep Bradley

Oct 21, 2013, 11:14 AM EDT
In this Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013 photo, Bob Bradley from the US, Egypt’s national team coach talks, during an interview with The Associated Press, in Cairo, Egypt. With Egypt still reeling from a 6-1 loss to Ghana in a World Cup playoff, the team's American coach is hoping to restore some pride to the bruised national side. It’s unclear, however, if Bob Bradley will even get the chance to do that.
AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

CAIRO (AP) — Bob Bradley is hoping to restore some pride to Egypt's bruised soccer team.

The Egyptian Football Association decided Monday to keep the American for the second leg of the country's World Cup playoff against Ghana.

After Egypt was routed 6-1 in the first leg, it wasn't clear if Bradley would even get that chance. Still, the rematch in Cairo on Nov. 19 will likely be his last with the team.

"If we don't manage to make a miracle, then I'll be finished," the former U.S. coach told The Associated Press. "I will leave feeling sad for everyone but also knowing that we gave everything we had to try and make it happen."

Last week's lopsided loss in the Ghanaian town of Kumasi is still causing fury in Egypt. Much of the blame for a surprisingly one-sided defeat has been pinned on Bradley, raising speculation that he might not be with his team for the second match because of fears over his safety.

"It's important that we can stand together one more time," Bradley said before the federation made its decision, and he got his wish.

"Our team has worked very, very hard to try and make a dream, an important dream for all Egyptians," he said. "I am sad that we've put ourselves in a position right now where that dream is at risk.

"It's going to be difficult, but we still have 90 more minutes."

The Ghana Football Association has asked FIFA to move the return leg to a neutral venue, citing security concerns. Soccer's governing body has given Egypt a deadline of Oct. 28 to provide "comprehensive security assurances."

Egypt's political unrest has also spilled into soccer, killing dozens in a deadly stadium riot last year that traumatized the nation.

Through it all, soccer-crazed Egyptians were banking on the Pharaohs to earn a spot at next year's World Cup in Brazil, hoping that qualifying for the tournament for the first time in decades would restore some national pride and help bridge deep political and social divisions.

Egypt had only begun to hope for a recovery from the 2011 uprising that forced long-term president Hosni Mubarak from office when Bradley arrived to the country that year. His task was to revive a team that missed out on the 2010 World Cup and then the African Cup of Nations for the first time in 33 years.

Managing the team amid political chaos has been Bradley's main challenge, particularly after violence consumed the game following the deaths of 74 people in a stadium riot in Port Said last year.

More violence erupted earlier this year, when seven police officers were acquitted in a trial over the melee while death sentences against 21 alleged rioters were confirmed. Angry fans rampaged through the heart of Cairo, storming the Egyptian soccer federation's headquarters before setting it ablaze.

Then in July, Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, was ousted in a military coup, prompting his supporters to stage near-weekly protests for his reinstatement and their rivals to demonstrate in support of the military-backed leadership.

"When we went on the field in Kumasi last week, these were some of the things that the players were carrying on their shoulders," Bradley said. "It's a lot to ask of the players in a football match."

The fans back home criticized his coaching decisions last week, saying his mistakes humiliated the team.

"I am strong in these situations," Bradley said. "As a national coach you have some people on your side and some who are against you. I understand the disappointment. I see it when I see people in the street."

But sometimes, the American said, people also come up to him and say: "Thank you for giving everything at the time when the country is going through so much trouble, so much turmoil."


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