Bob Bradley will arrive in Cairo this week to begin his new job leading Egypt’s national soccer team — the most prominent overseas position held by an American-born head coach ever. For now, he will live at an upscale hotel. His wife will join him in a few weeks. He’ll attend Saturday’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against group-leading Niger, but because the Pharoahs are out of the running for a berth, the under-23 delegation will represent the country. His first test: a Nov. 15 friendly against Brazil in Doha, Qatar.
Before Bradley, 53, departed from his home in Southern California, the Insider caught up with the 2010 U.S. World Cup boss:
After the USSF let you go, did you want to resume coaching right away? Did you consider taking him off or perhaps looking into returning to MLS next season?
“I didn’t have a plan. In these situations, you have to assess your options. There’s a tricky part to it because you don’t know what will develop. Do I wait and see or look into an opportunity?
“I had two periods to size up what was out there: after the World Cup last year and after the USSF’s decision this summer. In both cases, I was just trying to assess the challenge and where it would come from. Sometimes you get the feeling you are being considered but aren't a top candidate. In the case of Egypt, I was familiar with their recent history. I had a pretty good idea of what their team was about.”
The USA defeated the Pharoahs in the group stage of the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa (video here of goals by Charlie Davies, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey). Bradley’s staff watched Egypt as part of the World Cup qualifying cycle. The two sides were scheduled to play a friendly in Cairo early this year but political unrest forced a cancellation.
In addition, Zak Abdel, a goalkeepers coach who worked with Bradley at Chivas USA and the U.S. team, is a native of Egypt. (He is likely to join Bradley’s new staff.) Also, in 2009, Bradley became friendly with veteran Egyptian forward Mohamed Zidan, who, at the time, was rehabilitating an injury at Home Depot Center’s training facility in Southern California.
“So all of that was a starting point for me. I visited in August and followed up a few weeks ago when we worked out a deal.”
As a nation, Egypt has undergone historic change this year. Were you concerned about accepting such a high-profile job in an unstable country?
“We followed what took place very closely early this year because it impacted the U.S. team in the friendly. When this job opportunity came up, when I first visited, I wanted to get a feel for the situation. I talked to a lof of people — in the State Department, in the diplomatic community. I received a lot of good information and got a good idea what the future holds. I felt like I had a good picture.”
What is your sense of the passion for soccer in Egypt?
“They love the game. Egyptians are very proud people and therefore take a lot of pride in the national team. The goal is to qualify for the World Cup. They’ve had success in the African Nations Cup [as the three-time defending champions]. They’ve accomplished a lot, but they haven’t gone to the World Cup since 1990. This is the focus, this is the dream.”
He didn’t want to speculate about the impact his hiring would have on the perception of American coaches internationally and, consistent with the past, he was reluctant to share his thoughts about the arc of his son Michael’s career, which has taken the 24-year-old midfielder to Chievo in Italy’s Serie A. He did say that, while overseas, he hopes to attend a Chievo match.
But I did have to ask him about the possibility of a USA-Egypt friendly, an affair that would feature Bradley against his successor, Juergen Klinsmann, as well as against his son.
“I’ll let others handle those things.”