Bob Bradlehotep, the new coach of the Pharaohs
The former USMNT coach signs a two year contract that will see him coach Egypt till the end of the 2014 World Cup.
Hassan Shehata who had coached The Pharaohs to three consecutive Africa Cup of Nations titles departed after the team was unable to qualify for next year’s ACN. Egypt’s 2010 World Cup dreams were also shattered after Algeria qualified at their expense in a series of bloody encounters that finally ended in a decider played in Khartoum.
Despite their stellar continental record, the Pharoahs have had a very underwhelming record at the World Cup having last qualified in 1990 with a very early exit in the group stage.
Bradley will be hoping to reverse that record bringing discipline and fitness to a team that has some great talent but have often in the past shot themselves in the foot with their inability to play 90 minutes.
In a country where football and politics are sometimes hard to tell apart, Bradley could also play the part of an unwitting goodwill ambassador. The stock of the USA is sure to fall quite precipitously with their predictable opposition (no thinking out of the box on that one and absolutely in line with AIPAC’s memo) to Palestine’s UN aspirations. The Egyptian interim government reversing years of deference to Israel under Hosni Mubarak explicitly endorsed Palestine statehood earlier this year.
This month the Israeli embassy in Cairo was attacked by demonstrators led by Al Ahly and Zamalek ultras in retaliation for the deaths of five Egyptian policeman shot close to Rafah near the Gaza strip by Israeli security forces. The ultras were also front and centre in the massive demonstrations at Tahrir Square that ultimately brought down the Mubarak regime. There are no two ways about it. Capture the hearts and minds of the hardcore football fans and you have your hand on the political pulse of the country.
Bradley, distinctly apolitical, might inadvertently be limiting major political damage, if he can lead Egypt to the World Cup and do well. It may all come down to a future USA vs Egypt match loaded with personal and political implications.