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

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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

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

Photo by Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy/Qatar 2022 via Getty Images
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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

Photo credit: Liverpool FC / Twiter: @LFC
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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million — a new Liverpool club record — and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.

Alexis sets the record, but Germany come back for draw

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Alexis Sanchez became Chile’s all-time leading goalscorer (38) on Thursday, and La Roja inched ever closer to progression at the 2017 Confederations Cup with a 1-1 draw against Germany.

[ MORE: VAR steps in to help Aussies draw Cameroon, 1-1 ]

Sanchez moved past Marcelo Salas with his 6th-minute opener (above video) to capitalize on a poor turnover and complete a quick one-two atop Germany’s 18-yard box. Arturo Vidal put a foot in to disrupt Germany’s attempt to play out of the back, and the ball fell to Sanchez who quickly played it back to Vidal, who played Sanchez into the box for a left-footed finish inside the near post.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Chile’s lead wouldn’t quite last until halftime, though, as Lars Stindl got on the end of Jonas Hector’s cross in the 41st minute to bring the reigning World Cup champions back to level terms and all but secure their place in the next round.

With the result, Chile and Germany remain tied on top of Group B (4 points) with one game to play. Given the distance between themselves and Australia and Cameron (1 point each) in third and fourth, a draw in their final group games would be more than enough to go through to the semifinals. One-goal defeats would even do the trick.

Kenny Saief approved for one-time switch from Israel to USMNT

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Kenny Saief has been officially cleared by FIFA to make his one-time switch of international allegiance from Israel to the United States, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced on Thursday.

Saief, 23, was born in Panama City, Fla., to Druze-Israeli parents and began his youth career with Maccabi Haifa in 2005, at the age of 11. After a handful of first-team appearances for various Israeli clubs between 2010 and 2013, Saief earned a regular place in Ironi Nir Ramat HaSharon’s first team during the 2013-14 season. In the summer of 2014, he moved to Belgian side Gent, where he’s played in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. U.S. men’s national team head coach Bruce Arena included Saief on his 40-man preliminary roster for next month’s 2017 Gold Cup.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

He appeared for Israeli youth national teams at just about every level, but having grown frustrated at the lack of a call-up to the senior team, Saief made it known many months ago he would consider a switch to the USMNT if the omission continued.

Saief figures to serve as something of a utility-man for the USMNT, at least from the start. He’s a left-footed midfielder who’s played extensively on both the left and right wings, and even a bit at left back. It’s the latter that should most intrigued USMNT fans, considering the dearth of options available at the position.