Bob Bradley's Egypt Set to Face U.S. Nemesis Ghana
Former U.S. soccer coach Bob Bradley, now in charge of Egypt's national team, has a huge qualifier Tuesday night against Ghana. We asked Adam Moustafa of KingFut.com to give us the inside scoop.
BY Jon Arnold PostedWITH THE U.S. ALREADY QUALIFIED, the most interesting match for American soccer fans Tuesday might be outside CONCACAF entirely. Egypt, led by American manager Bob Bradley, heads to Ghana (11:55 a.m. Eastern, beIN Sport) for the first leg of a home-and-home series that will decide which of the two nations qualifies for the World Cup. Despite being Africa's most successful country when it comes to the beautiful game, Egypt has been to only two World Cups, one in 1934 and the other in 1990. Bradley has steered his team unscathed through qualifying and maintained a strong public face in the midst of political turmoil. We chatted with Adam Moustafa, one of the founders of King Fut, a website dedicated to English-language coverage of Egyptian football, for his perspective ahead of the decisive qualifiers. ASN: We always hear that Bob Bradley has become universally loved in Egypt. What's your perception of how Bradley is viewed by Egyptian fans and media members? Adam Moustafa: Yeah, it's actually as the media portrays it in the West. Basically you start off taking a coach who you're quite skeptical of at first. Right after the first revolution, Bradley came and took over and the first thing you're looking for is an American, and in the point of view of an Egyptian, that's just not the most regular thing to do. Egypt were very successful under Hassan Shehata, under a local coach, so to go and hire a foreigner brought a bit of skepticism for them at first. But then, of course, the way Bradley handled things was not as a regular foreign coach would. After Port Said, the country was in turmoil, and Bradley stuck through with the nation and went to protests. No one expected this. Even at that time there were still pundits who were trying to get at him somehow. The more he stayed with the country, the more he's done with the country and stayed with the team, fans are fully supportive of him. Of course, we didn't qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations 2013 under Bradley, but people will throw away three of those qualifications in a row if [he] can take us to the World Cup. ASN: There's always this narrative about football uniting people, bringing everyone together, but that sadly hasn't always been the case in Egypt. How important are the Pharaohs, and how much can they actually do to unite a nation in such turmoil? AM: Let's go back before the revolution. Egyptians are mad about football. Basically, to ask a question to any regular person like, "What are you?" back then would be implying are you a fan of Al-Ahly or of Zamalek? So the national team was the nation's No. 1 gem at that moment. But after the revolution and even now, there's a big divide on political views. So now the same question, 'What are you?' would be to imply Are you a supporter of (Army chief Abdel Fattah) el-Sisi or are you a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood? There's a big difference of opinion over here, but the one thing that remains the same is everyone's support for the national team and everyone's support for the World Cup. Now of course, it's not the No. 1 priority any more compared to everything that's going on in the country. Everyone wants safety and peace to come through. But it is still up there. If we do make it to the World Cup there will be celebrations in the streets and everyone will put their differences aside. ASN: Ghana has protested Egypt's plans to play the second leg in Cairo, something Egypt hasn't been able to do under Bradley. Is it safe to play there? AM: I do think it's safe to play in Cairo. When there were a few CAF Champions League matches, most of them recently have been played in Gouna, but that was only directly after the overthrow of the former president (Mohamed) Morsi. So at that point, everyone was protesting and there were clashes and there was death. At that point, I would've said No, don't play in Cairo. But it's been two months now, and it's only going to get better. You hear about, every now and then, little explosions—a small explosion or clashes with the army, but I think once it comes down to it everyone is going to be either at the stadium or in front of their TV's watching the game. ASN: We hear a lot about what Bradley has done as a man, understandably, but he's having success with the team as well. Tactically, what has Bradley done and how do you see Tuesday's qualifier taking shape on the pitch? AM: Well, what he's basically done is Egypt were always playing a wingback formation where we have three in the back, five midfielders, and two attackers. He's made it a more modern 4-2-3-1. Basically some of the players aren't as good as they were under Hassan Shehata, but other players have blossomed. You have Mohammed Salah in attack, you have (Mohamed) Aboutrika. He's still the same magician as he always was. Going into this final stage of World Cup qualifying, we probably have had our worst defensive record, but at the same time, the number of goals we've scored is incredible, and we are perfect in qualifying. He has to do a lot of his own experiments with the national team when he plays friendlies. One time he'll play this XI and another time a completely different XI. Not everyone is fully comfortable to the formation and to their own positions yet. ASN: What's something most people don't know about the Egyptian national team that they should? AM: The main thing is the chemistry between the team. They do everything together. As Bradley says, 'These are my brothers now.' They're always doing everything together. Practicing together, checking up on each other. A lot of players weren't getting paid. Eleven of the players play for the exact same club. So that's the one thing: Chemistry on the team is just sublime. You don't have any other national team who can say they have 11 guys coming from the same team, I believe—at least not of the internationally followed teams. ASN: Tell us about your site for a bit. What made you want to start an English-language site about Egyptian football? AM: Again, most Egyptians are football mad. Most of the Websites already are in Arabic. Google Translate is not the most credible thing to use for these things. We wanted to bring it to a more worldwide audience, increase the exposure of our players. I wanted to raise the profile of the players, give them the coverage that they deserve and a more professional coverage. It's been just over a year that we've had the site running, but we get scouts following us. Players, club representatives following us. Bob Bradley follows us. He visits our site every now and then. You can follow King Fut on Twitter and catch its match preview on the site.
October 14, 2013
October 14, 2013