Filmmaker Hossam Aboul-Magd discusses ‘Bob Bradley: American Pharoah’


As Hossam Aboul-Magd knows all too well, sometimes ‘The Beautiful Game’ can feel like a misnomer of titanic proportions.

That was the case on February 1, 2012, when violence erupted in the Egyptian city of Port-Said and 74 football fans were killed. It was a day Aboul-Magd, an Egyptian filmmaker, calls “terrifying and depressing.”

It was also the day Aboul-Magd arrived in Cairo to begin filming his documentary, “American Pharoah: Bob Bradley and the Egyptian Soccer Team, the Inside Story.”

The documentary, set to be released in January 2014, follows former U.S. Men’s National Team coach, Bob Bradley, as he manages the Egyptian Men’s National Team through the World Cup qualifying process in Africa. The film provides unprecedented access and behind-the-scenes coverage of Bob and his wife, Lindsay, as they adjust to life in Egypt and the country finds its identity following a heated political revolution.

It was a project that came naturally to Aboul-Magd. As a self-described “crazy football fan,” a massive supporter of the Egyptian Men’s National Team and a long-time admirer of Bradley, the 41 year old jumped at the opportunity to tell this story.

From his home in Washington D.C., Aboul-Magd reached out to Michael Kammerman, media coordinator for the U.S. Men’s National Team, who put the filmmaker in touch with Bradley. The first time Aboul-Magd spoke to Bradley it was around Christmas, 2011, and the two discussed the project for nearly an hour.

Ever the pragmatist, Bradley had done his homework on Aboul-Magd and had plenty of questions and concerns about the project. The political, social and financial obstacles around the documentary were numerous. Yet Bradley wanted the film to be made and for Aboul-Magd to tell the story.

And so, in the face of tragedy and peril, Aboul-Magd set out to capture what it has been like for the Bradley family and the nation of Egypt during this time of change. Directing, producing, shooting and doing the sound all by himself, Aboul-Magd is a one man field crew who strives for intimacy by not imposing himself on the characters. “It is super important to make the staff and players feel they can trust me, and I believe they do,” the filmmaker said.

Before beginning the project, Aboul-Magd always thought Bradley was an amazing character. But the more he films Bradley, the deeper his respect and admiration grows for the coach. “I have no issues saying that I’m biased towards the Bradley’s,”  Aboul-Magd admits. “Bob and Lindsay are one of the nicest, kindest and most sincere couple I ever met.”

Not only are Bradley and his team facing qualification amidst the rebuilding of Egyptian democracy, Aboul-Magd noted, but they are doing so “despite not being paid, not playing in front of their fans [and] not getting any support from the government.” This kind of sacrifice has made Bradley’s presence in Egypt larger than life.

He is a celebrity not only because he is the manager of the national team but because of the humanitarian and charity work he does all over Egypt. “It’s very normal to hear locals calling him ‘an Egyptian like us,'” says Aboul-Magd. “During one of the film’s interviews, one Egyptian journalist told me ‘I hope Egyptians love Egypt the same way Bob Bradley loves Egypt’,” he explains. “It tells you a lot about the man.”

The story is not only incredible because of the conditions in Egypt but because The Pharoah‘s are through to the final round of 2014 World Cup qualifying in Africa after securing a 1-0 victory over Mozambique on June 16th. The victory ensures that Egypt will be one of the ten nations through to this fall’s African play-offs for Brazil 2014. If they succeed in advancing to Brazil it will be the first time Egypt has qualified for the World Cup since 1990.

The national team’s success, Aboul-Magd explains, is largely due to Bradley’s influence on the side’s style of play. Before the American coach arrived, Egypt used to play a more Latin American style. Now, the team has become a lot tougher, has incredible stamina and possesses a winning mentality.

To any American soccer fan, this is hardly surprising.

Aboul-Magd will continue to follow The Pharoah’s through next fall’s African play-offs, at which point he and his off-field crew will finish up post-production of the film and send it to the Sundance Film Festival. The film will also feature on PBS, the network that commissioned the research and development of the project, as well as helped fund it.

How the story ends, only time will tell.

For Aboul-Magd, the goal is not to reach the World Cup but to provide a vehicle that exposes how one man has managed to change the mentalities of the Egyptian players and people alike.

Executive Producer: Charles Stuart

Producer/Writer: Sandy Petrykowski

Editor: Lesly Kubistal

Allow England defender Alfie Mawson to charm you

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Swansea City’s Alfie Mawson is at England national team camp, and the young man is conducting himself in downright adorable fashion.

It seems the 24-year-old London defender cannot quite believe Gareth Southgate called his name for the Three Lions.

[ MORE: Key newcomers for USMNT friendly ]

“A lot of people wouldn’t have even heard my name until this call up,” Mawson told the BBC. “You know it’s down to performing well at certain times, it’s down to doing the right things and sometimes it’s down to being a nice person.”

Mawson has played every minute for Swans this season, picking up two goals and an assist. More importantly, he’s won 3.3 aerial battles per game and 6.3 clearances.

While this won’t necessarily serve him well against the Netherlands and Italy in this week’s friendlies — they don’t put a lot of hopeful balls into aerial or clearing positions — it’s kept Mawson on the England radar for this summer’s World Cup.

Mawson is two seasons removed from playing in the Championship, and was loaned to lower league clubs like Maidenhead United and Welling United. At the time, he was going to “car boot sales with my girlfriend” which from my limited Googling seems the English equivalent of a yard sale and flea market combined.

“We are in a good position now where we don’t really have to do the car boots unless she wants a bit of excitement on a Sunday morning.”

Pretty good position, yeah.

FIFA urges Russia to hasten work on delayed World Cup arena

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SAMARA, Russia (AP) FIFA has urged Russia to speed up World Cup preparations at a stadium which needs “a huge amount of work” to be ready on time.

With less than three months to go until the World Cup, the 45,000-seat Samara Arena is the only one of 12 stadiums which doesn’t yet have a pitch installed.

The stadium in the Volga River city of Samara was already badly delayed due to a complex roof design, but now cold weather in the Russian spring is causing further problems. The pitch can’t be installed until the weather warms up.

“Obviously we would expect further progress than this,” FIFA’s chief competitions official Colin Smith said on a visit to the arena Wednesday. “We don’t yet have a pitch, and obviously we need to wait for some warmer weather conditions in order to get this pitch installed.”

As of Tuesday, instead of a field, there was an area covered with tarpaulins and snow. Temperatures are forecast to stay slightly below freezing for the rest of the week.

“There’s a huge amount of work still to be done,” Smith added. “From the information we’ve received there’s nothing stopping all these areas being completed on time. It just requires commitment and more manpower to get it done on time, and when we talk about on time, we’re talking about the commissioning date of the end of April.”

If that date passes, it could restrict FIFA’s ability to test the stadium with Russian league games and install World Cup equipment. Outside the arena, deep snowdrifts cover much of an area that is due to be landscaped for the tournament and will host some facilities for fans.

Alexander Fetisov, deputy governor of the Samara region, said the stadium will be ready.

“I’d like to avoid unnecessary dramatization of the situation,” he said. “Everything is being done so that the stadium is commissioned in the time required.”

Samara isn’t the only World Cup field which has drawn attention in recent weeks. The stadium in Kazan has been widely criticized by Russian fans after a brown, muddy surface was used for league games after the winter break.

Smith said FIFA was offering Russia help to get its fields ready, adding, “We’re doing everything possible and we’re convinced that we’re going to have a very, very high standard of pitches at this tournament.”

Key newcomers for USMNT friendly

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While the excitement potential is high amongst big club USMNT call-ups like PSG’s Tim Weah and Everton’s Antonee Robinson, there are several other relative newcomers who are facing a more acute focus.

So yes, of course, we’re most excited to see the young guns fire away, but a few others will be under the microscope for different reasons.

[ MORE: Best PL summer buys ]

Paraguay is leaving some big names behind — Dario Lezcano, Jesus Medina, Edgar Benítez — but won’t be using as “B” or “C” of a squad as the USMNT. Key defenders Junior Alonso (Lille) and Gustavo Gomez (AC Milan) will be staring down the U.S. attack, while Atlanta United star Miguel Almiron will try his luck against the Yanks’ backs.

  1. The goalkeepers — With full respect to Bill Hamid and his five caps, the trio of backstops who could play against Paraguay are unknown entities on the senior international level. There are reasons to be excited about Alex Bono (Toronto FC) and Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew) going against Los Guaraníes — and Hamid, too — and standing behind a young and untested group of center backs should give plenty of chances to make a name for whoever is chosen (If Sarachan is more “woke” this go-round, it’ll be multiple keepers).
  2. Andriya Novakovich — The Telstar striker is checking all the boxes: 6-foot-4, productive on the youth level, and now succeeding overseas. The 21-year-old has 17 goals on loan from Reading in the Dutch second tier. While that’s far from a “Woah” figure considering the top-tier in the Netherlands isn’t exactly a defensive hot bed, it’s intriguing for Tuesday in North Carolina.
  3. Rubio Rubin — We’re hopeful Sarachan goes with a 4-4-2, which would allow both Rubin and Novakovich to get runs next to Bobby Wood. Rubin is seeing some time at Liga MX side Club Tijuana after his European adventure stalled following a hot start for Utrecht. He had an assist in CONCACAF Champions League play against Red Bulls this month.
  4. Tyler Adams — Speaking of that match, the Red Bulls got a goal from Adams. It’s fair to say he’s got the chance to be as special a player as Schalke youngster Weston McKennie (and would apparently like to join his USMNT teammate overseas). Adams and McKennie together could legit be an engine room for years. Will that begin on Tuesday?
  5. Cameron Carter-Vickers — The 20-year-old center back has shown resilience in England. His hot start to life at Sheffield United, on loan from Tottenham, cooled enough to have him sent back to North London, but Carter-Vickers has rebounded to become a key part of Ipswich Town’s back line. With 22-year-old Matt Miazga the only clear center back on the roster and older than him, CCV can quiet a lot of doubters.
  6. Kenny Saief — This guy has excited at nearly every turn since bursting onto the scene with Gent via the Israeli national team, and an injury cost him some momentum with the USMNT. Now healthy and on loan with Anderlecht, the same side which refined the fire of Sacha Kljestan, the once-capped Florida-born man is as intriguing as ever.

Season strugglers: Some ignominious PL performances

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Tuesday found us breaking ties on our “Most Impactful Premier League Summer Buys” rankings by digging through some advanced statistics sites.

In doing so, something struck us: We rarely if ever check out which players are faring the worst when it comes to those next level numbers.

Ah, the international break: Good for off-the-wall posts.

[ MORE: Alonso, Pedro have Morata’s back]

At the risk of kicking a player while he’s down, here are some negative numbers that stand out from the pack.

Of the 358 players who’ve played at least 10 Premier League matches, Joe Hart is having the worst season of the bunch according to Squawka. That’s a bit misleading due to how the site’s metrics operate, considering eight of the bottom 20 players are goalkeepers (and several, like Jonas Lossl and Jordan Pickford, are having outstanding campaigns).

So the unfortunate honor goes to Swansea defender Martin Olsson, who edges James McClean of West Brom for the infamy. Since the site does heap numbers on players by action accumulated, perhaps it’s better to single out the per-game and per-90 strugglers. Olsson and McClean are still very much near the bottom, but surprisingly Yannick Bolasie is the worst per game, and Swansea’s Wayne Routledge is having the least effective season per 90 minutes.

As for WhoScored, its metrics are hammering forwards, with Lys Mousset, Andre Gray, and Benik Afobe at the back of the back (ahead of McClean, again, who is a multi-site struggler).

These stats aren’t perfect, of course, and I like the idea of having McClean on my squad. But there are some other odds stats in the pack.

 These players might want to pass their next opportunity to the keeper. Of players with 10 or more shot attempts this season, Adam Lallana (11), Renato Sanches (12), Lewis Cook (14), and Dale Stephens (15) have failed to put a single shot on target.

— Of the 81 players who’ve tried their luck 30 times or more, these are the worst accuracy rates

— For perspective, Harry Kane has put 56 percent of his league-leading 162 shots on target, while second place man Mohamed Salah is 61 percent of 118.

— Defensive errors also can be increased significantly by the times a player is put under pressure by his team, which is why goalkeepers are high on Squawka’s list. Take them out, and you get a list with Spurs’ Eric Dier up top. Two of his six errors have led to goals against Tottenham, with Zanka (Huddersfield Town), Alfie Mawson (Swans), Andreas Christensen (Chelsea), and Shane Duffy (Brighton) next with four errors.