Bob Bradley is facing an entirely new, more intense, and more substantial form of pressure as head coach of the Egyptian men’s soccer team than he ever faced at the helm of the U.S. men’s team. And it’s not as if his tenure there was an easy one, filled with nonstop scrutiny and a near-ubiquitous hot seat.
Now, though, as head coach of the Egyptian Men’s National Team, it’s not about wins and losses. It’s about life and death, and rallying disparate factions and communities together behind one cause.
On Feb. 1, a bloody, violent riot led to the death of more than 70 spectators following an Egyptian league game between clubs Al-Masry and Al-Ahly.
Many of the national team’s players come from those two squads, and two of the country’s best announced their retirements from the sport after the riots. Meanwhile, Egyptian league play has currently been suspended by FIFA, and tensions have not eased since those tragic and tumultuous events, with so many political tie-ins and crossovers from the recent government upheaval.
The situation is uneasy at best, and deadly at worst, and Bradley has been doing his part to mourn and honor the dead and the communities, while trying to find a path forward. He has has already been more immersed in the country than other coaches would have been, living in Egypt full-time, and staying in the country following the riots.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian men’s side hasn’t qualified for the World Cup since 1990. But there’s talent on the team and in the country, if Bradley can keep the squad together and motivate them to push ahead for the greater good.
Reaching the 2014 World Cup in Rio is a realistic goal, and one that Bradley and the entire nation is desperately pulling for. Currently, Egypt is ranked 36th in the world by FIFA (the U.S. soccer team is ranked 33rd), and the Egyptian U-23 squad is already qualified for the London Olympics, a crucial training ground for 2014.
The obstacles to overcome are many, and the consequences of the team’s performance are vast. For Bob Bradley, it’s an entirely new kind of pressure, and something that he, and most coaches on the planet, have never had to face before.
This article was first published by Jake Emen on Yahoo! Sports on February 13, 2012