Michael Bradley to BBC: ‘If the first game were in Cairo, I’d be there’

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In the BBC’s World Football podcast released on Friday, United States and AS Roma midfielder Michael Bradley spoke at length about his club’s excellent start to the season and his father, Bob Bradley, coaching the Egyptian national team.

Here is a full transcript of the interview, which begins near the start of the podcast.

BBC (1:53 mark of the podcast): “Despite suffering an ankle injury, the USA international has been reveling in the team’s excellent run.”

Michael Bradley: “I think what you’ve seen over the past few years here at the club is that they’ve built a strong foundation for the future. Unfortunately, there have been times in the past few years where the results haven’t been what everybody had hoped. To then cap that off by losing the Italian Cup final last year to Lazio was a massive disappointment for anybody involved with the club.

“But beneath that disappointment was still a strong foundation for the future. So I think the club did very well in the summer to assess the situation, to decide which players were needed here, to decide which players had value in the transfer market, and they really did a good job of now finding the right coach, allowing him the chance to work with players who he wanted, and so far this season, what you’re seeing is the fruit of all that work.”

BBC: “The Coppa Italia final, where Roma lost to Lazio: Is it too much to say that that was an embarrassment or humiliation — just the fact that they lost to Lazio?”

MB: ” ‘Embarrassment’ and ‘humiliation’ are not words that I would use. We all know what football at the highest level is like, especially then, when you get to a final. It’s all about who, on the day, is able to make a play. The margin between winning and losing is so fine. Certainly, losing to our biggest rivals in the final of a cup, allowing them to lift that trophy in front of us, in front of our fans — I think, when I speak to my friends, who are Romans [and] supporters of the club, you’re talking about one of the darkest days in the history of the club, without a doubt.

“But from disappointment and from failure to win a cup like that comes even more determination and commitment. As I said, there’s a group of players and coaches here this year that are determined to put that right.”

BBC: “Explain how fierce this rivalry actually is.”

MB: “It’s difficult to describe to anybody, honestly, outside of Rome, outside of Italy. The only thing you can tell somebody is to come to the stadium one day and see it. Actually, better off coming to the stadium, to Rome, the week of that game, and you start to feel and start to understand what this means for the people.”

BBC: “Talk to me about Francesco Totti. I mean, he’s been here for nearly as long as you’ve been alive. Explain how much of a legend he is at this club.”

MB: “He’s the symbol for this club. He’s the symbol for every Roman, for every fan. For every person who’s grown up in this city, who’s dreamed of playing professional football, he is the idol, the symbol, the example. He obviously grew up in Rome. He’s never left. He’s won the Scudetto, he’s won Italian Cups, and really, more than anything, what people here have so much respect for him about is his loyalty. Through a career where, really, [he was] one of the best players in the world, with the opportunity to go to the biggest clubs — Real Madrid — he always chose to stay loyal to this city, to these colors, to his club. So in those ways, he is somebody who is a legend.”

BBC: “I’d just like to ask you about your dad [former U.S. head coach Bob Bradley]. He’s developed something of a hero status after going to coach the Egypt national team and refusing to leave the country, even amid all of the post-revolutionary turmoil that’s been going on there. What’s your view of his attitude and his steadfast support of the Egyptian people and their football fans?”

MB: “Incredibly proud. Incredibly proud of him, of my mother — who is there with him — and their commitment to finishing what he started. He went there with the idea, with the dream, of taking Egypt to the World Cup. In the midst of all the instability in their country, in the midst of the revolution, in the midst of massacres, in the midst of so much trouble in their country, they have managed to keep a group of guys focused and committed on really, the dream of the entire country.

“I think it’s in these ways, in these moments, that we’re all able to see how powerful football is. I mean, a country like that, with so much turmoil, maybe the only thing thing that the Egyptians can agree on is their love and support for the national team and how the dream is to see them back in a World Cup.”

BBC: “Do you ever worry about your old man and your mom?”

MB: “No. The Egyptian people have been incredible to them. There’s not been a day where they feel in any way unsafe or not at home. They’ve grown to really like Cairo. The people, as I said, have been great to them, and so we’re excited for what they’re doing and hoping that they can finish off this dream.”

BBC: “They’re two games away from doing that. You’re injured at the moment, so you can’t play in the next league fixture here or for the States in their final World Cup qualifiers. Are you tempted to go to Ghana and join your dad in the first leg of their World Cup qualifier?”

MB: “If the first game were in Cairo, I’d be there for sure. Ghana might be a little bit more difficult to get to, but I’ll be watching and cheering like every other Egyptian that day.”

Oxlade-Chamberlain to miss rest of season, World Cup

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This is awful news.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will miss the rest of the season for Liverpool and England after damaging ligaments in his right knee.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, 24, injured his knee in a tackle with Aleksandar Kolarov early in Liverpool’s 5-2 win against AS Roma in their UEFA Champions League second leg on Tuesday.

In a statement released on Liverpool’s website on Wednesday they revealed the extent of the Ox’s injury.

”Liverpool FC can confirm Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s 2017-18 season is over for both club and country due to a knee ligament injury sustained against AS Roma on Tuesday evening. The extent of the injury means Oxlade-Chamberlain is set to miss the remainder of the campaign for Liverpool, as well as the World Cup finals in Russia with England.

“The 24-year-old was assessed by the club’s medical team at Melwood on Wednesday morning and no specific timescale is being placed upon his return to action at this stage. However, Oxlade-Chamberlain will now begin a rehabilitation programme to enable him to reach full fitness again as soon as possible, returning to action next season.”

Oxlade-Chamberlain has reinvented himself this season in a central midfield role following his move from Arsenal in the summer of 2017.

His driving runs from midfield have caused so many problems and he was in the best form of his career over he past few months.

After struggling for so long with injures, the Ox finally had a run of six months or so without an injury and he was fulfilling his potential with big goals and performances against Manchester City in Liverpool’s wins against them in the PL an UEFA Champions League.

The fact that Oxlade-Chamberlain will have to watch on if Liverpool reach the UCL final and then again for the World Cup with England is a cruel blow.

Argentina shocked by abuse of minors at top clubs

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) The young victims are still here: they’re among the kids who like to share stories while they sip on traditional Argentine tea, who check their phones outside changing rooms, and kick a ball around during a break from practice.

The teens live in the boarding house for Independiente’s youth section, where they should have been safe, dreaming of becoming Argentina’s next soccer great.

Instead, investigators say pedophiles turned their lives into a nightmare when they paid many of these children, who come from poor families in remote corners of the country, as little as a bus ride back home or a pair of football boots in exchange for sex.

The prosecutor investigating the case says that at least 10 minors were prostituted and several other more minors are believed to have been potential victims. So far, seven men, including a referee, have been arrested.

The child prostitution ring at Independiente was followed by reports that minors had also been allegedly abused at River Plate’s youth divisions. The growing scandal at two of Argentina’s most popular and successful clubs has shocked many in this soccer-mad nation.

The Argentine Football Federation has ordered monitoring of club boarding houses nationwide. But former players, sports psychologists and parents say that much more needs to be done to protect the children who train in talent factories where Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and other stars polished their skills growing up.

Independiente filed a complaint with prosecutors earlier this year when the allegations first surfaced after one of the players broke down during a session with a club psychologist.

“We had two paths: reporting this or covering it up, and we decided to look the children and the parents in the eyes and file a complaint,” a club official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the case is still being investigated.

“Thanks to this complaint, all the people involved are behind bars,” the source said. “There’s a huge social phenomenon here: There have been other reports since we filed the complaint, and I hope others have the courage to come out as well, because this goes far beyond Independiente.”

Just days after the Independiente case broke out, River Plate said that it would cooperate with authorities after a local group reported minors were allegedly abused in the club’s youth divisions from 2004-11.

“The state should be much more involved so that a child doesn’t have to sleep with a man for some football boots or money to send back to his family,” said Maria Elena Leuzzi, a founder of the AVIVI Association for Victims of Rape that filed the complaint about River Plate.

“A child should always be cared for. We don’t know if we’ll have a future dad, a president, or a soccer player.”

Argentina is home to some of the world’s greatest players, but also fan violence by hooligans and endemic corruption by generations of soccer bosses and scouts who run the lucrative and often unregulated business of finding future stars.

“At the clubs, the bosses need to understand that kids are not numbers,” said Leonel Gancedo, a former player for River Plate and several other clubs who now runs the “Angeles Unidos” club.

“What has happened is shameful,” he said. “It’s a consequence of poor decisions.”

Many children in club boarding houses come from impoverished faraway communities, living far from their parents under the care of clubs, dreaming of a chance to make it big in the ultra-competitive world of professional football.

But for the thousands of talented youngsters who try out in the lower divisions, only a small percentage will become elite players. Some will struggle to overcome injuries. Others will fall to the psychological pressure at home or on the field.

“A kid can’t be pressured to save his family economically. It’s too much,” said Oscar Mangione, a sport psychologist and a former therapist for the Boca Juniors club.

Like elsewhere in the world, Argentina has experienced a string of sex abuse disclosures in the Catholic Church, and more recently, among celebrities and athletes. But the magnitude of the latest abuse scandal in sports is unprecedented in a country that prides itself on its World Cup victories and its Olympic medals in everything from sailing to field hockey.

Argentina’s Olympic Committee recently filed a legal complaint against a gymnastics coach who is accused of abusing a still undetermined number of athletes in the 1990s. As part of the investigation by a local prosecutor, authorities raided the headquarters of the Argentine gymnastics confederation.

“This is being spoken about much more: Newspapers, the radio, they all help to spread the word. We’re helping the victim lose its shame,” Leuzzi said. “The one who has to feel shame is the one who carries out the abuse.”

The kickoff for change should come from a serious effort by the Argentine Football Association to set safety rules among clubs nationwide, said Cesar La Paglia, a former player for Boca Juniors and the manager of Club Social Parque, a youth club.

“There are kids aged 8 or 9 living in these club boarding houses – it’s insane,” he said. “Those kids should be with their parents.”

In all, there are 50 teenagers from across Argentina living at the brick residences painted in the red and white club colors of Independiente. On a recent day, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The sound of a ball being kicked in a field surrounded by tall eucalyptus trees could be heard inside the main hall; Football boots were neatly lined up below the club’s red emblem; and a poster of the stadium with a cheering crowd on a wall, read: “The temple of your dreams.”

The club says that the victims have been reunited with their families in Buenos Aires and continue to receive psychological support while it continues to cooperate with authorities.

Meanwhile, a judge is expected to issue charges this week against the seven people who are being held in the alleged prostitution ring, and the prosecutor investigating the case has requested that they remain in prison.

Luis Andres Henao on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LuisAndresHenao

Christian Pulisic to make USMNT return

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It was announced on Wednesday that Christian Pulisic will return to the U.S. national team and he is heading home.

The Hershey, Pennsylvania native will play for the USMNT on May 28 against Bolivia as the friendly takes place at the Philadelphia Union’s Talen Energy Stadium.

Interim USMNT head coach Dave Sarachan revealed in a press conference that Pulisic will be involved against Bolivia after the youngster was left out of the past few U.S. squads to let him rest up after a busy season in the Bundesliga and Europe with Dortmund.

Pulisic, 19, hasn’t played for the USMNT since their 2-1 loss at Trinidad & Tobago in October 2017 which sealed their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup this summer.

The teenage sensation (who has nine goals in 20 games for the USMNT) has played 39 times in all competitions for German giants Borussia Dortmund this season, scoring five goals. The game against Bolivia will mark two years to the day that he scored his first USMNT goal, also in a friendly against Bolivia.

Pulisic said the following about heading home.

“I’m really excited to play in Philadelphia,” Pulisic said. “Obviously it’s close to my home and a lot of my family will be there and I’m super excited to put on the U.S. jersey again.”

Speaking about Pulisic’s return, Sarachan was delighted to have him back on board and revealed he hasn’t quite made his mind up about the make-up of his squad for the upcoming friendlies.

“We are excited to have him back with us,” Sarachan said. “We are still forming what make sense in terms of balance between Major League Soccer players and players from elsewhere.”

The USMNT will arrive in Philly on May 20 for a training camp at the University of Pennsylvania before the friendly against Bolivia, while Pulisic is also expected to travel with the team to play in their friendlies at the Republic of Ireland and France in early June.

The kid is back.

Oxlade-Chamberlain injury update

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Jurgen Klopp does not seem confident that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will play again this season.

The Liverpool and England midfielder suffered an injury to his right knee early on in Liverpool’s 5-2 win over Roma in their UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg, as he appeared to extend his right knee under his body when making a challenge on Aleksandar Kolarov.

Speaking to the media following Liverpool’s dramatic win, Klopp was downbeat about Oxlade-Chamberlain’s chances of playing again this season.

“We don’t know exactly but if the medical department are quite concerned without a scan, you can imagine it’s difficult. The season is not that long anymore. It doesn’t look good,” Klopp said. “I’m a very positive person and still hope it only feels bad, but is not that bad. We’ll see. We lost a fantastic player tonight. It’s not good news.”

This injury has come at such a bad time for The Ox.

He has been flourishing with Liverpool in a central midfield role and has delivered key goals and assists in big wins since arriving from Arsenal last summer. Most notably the Ox’s driving midfield runs have caused Manchester City all kinds of problems and he scored two screamers against them in wins at Anfield in the Premier League and UCL.

Georginio Wijnaldum stepped in admirably for Oxlade-Chamberlain against Roma and the Dutch midfielder will be used alongside James Milner and Jordan Henderson from here on out by Klopp, especially with Emre Can battling a back injury.

As for Oxlade-Chamberlain, he will now be focused on trying to be fit for the UCL final on May 26 (if Liverpool get there) and on making England’s 2018 World Cup squad. That seems like a big ask given Klopp’s gloomy assessment.