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.”

Journalist in Ghana who exposed FIFA corruption shot dead

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ACCRA, Ghana (AP) An investigative journalist in Ghana who helped expose a high-ranking official at world soccer body FIFA as corrupt was shot dead by gunmen on a motorbike as he drove home alone at night, police said Thursday.

His employers said he was assassinated.

Ahmed Hussein-Suale was killed late Wednesday, shot twice in the chest and once in the neck at close range while driving in the suburb of Accra where he lived. He died immediately, according to police.

Tiger Eye PI, the investigative journalism house Hussein-Suale worked for, said it had the hallmarks of a professional hit.

“We call on the security agencies to unmask the elements behind this assassination and bring them to book,” Tiger Eye PI said.

Police haven’t announced any arrests. Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo condemned the killing and said he expected police to arrest the perpetrators of the “heinous crime” as soon as possible.

Hussein-Suale worked under the leadership of Anas Aremeyaw Anas, a renowned Ghanaian investigative journalist once singled out and praised by former U.S. President Barack Obama as courageous and who has used undercover television documentaries to expose graft and organized crime in Ghana and across Africa.

Anas, who himself has gone undercover to investigate issues like human trafficking and corruption among Ghanaian judges, appears in public wearing elaborate, multicolored veils over his face to protect his identity. The veils allow him to work without being recognized but also help to avoid reprisals.

Anas confirmed Hussein-Suale’s death on Facebook: “Sad news, but we shall not be silenced. Rest in peace.”

The team’s most recent work focused on exposing corruption in African soccer, which they portray as a murky world of backroom meetings where coaches, referees and even the most senior officials can be bribed to fix games or hand out favors.

The team got one of its biggest scoops when it caught Kwesi Nyantakyi, a member of world soccer’s FIFA Council and the second most powerful man in African soccer at the time, taking a bribe of $65,000 from their undercover reporters, who were posing as unethical businessmen. Nyantakyi smiles as he stuffs the wads of cash into a black plastic bag and agrees to use his position as president of the Ghanaian Football Association to help the businessmen – for a cut of their profits.

Nyantakyi resigned from all of his roles and was banned from soccer for life last year for bribery, corruption and conflict of interest as a result of the documentary.

The film also alleged widespread corruption among other officials, referees and coaches, and the entire Ghana Football Association was shut down by Ghana’s president as a result. The Confederation of African Football, the continent’s top soccer body, banned or suspended nearly two dozen referees and officials because of Anas’ team’s work.

Tiger Eye PI said Hussein-Suale’s last project for it was the soccer documentary. It didn’t say what other projects he was involved in for them. The BBC said Hussein-Suale worked with it on various projects, including an investigation into human body parts sold for ritual magic in Malawi.

Some of the methods used by Anas’ team have been questioned and stoked criticism, particularly the tactic of reporters posing as others to trap possibly corrupt figures. The methods have been denounced as illegal by some, including Nyantakyi, who said he will appeal his life ban from soccer.

Hussein-Suale’s killing also brought attention to comments made on television by a Ghanaian politician and businessman after the Nyantakyi scandal broke. Kennedy Agyapong, a member of parliament, appeared on his own television station to single out and denounce Hussein-Suale as “dangerous” and call for members of the public to assault the journalist up if they came across him.

Ranting and shouting into the camera, Agyapong said: “That boy (Ahmed-Hussein) that’s very dangerous, he lives here in Madina. If you meet him somewhere, break his ears. If he ever comes to this premises, I’m telling you, beat him. Whatever happens, I’ll pay because he’s bad, that Ahmed.”

The station also broadcast photographs of Hussein-Suale, apparently revealing his identity. Agyapong, in comments made on Ghanaian radio on Thursday, denied any involvement in the killing.

But in his Facebook message paying tribute to Hussein-Suale, and saying his team will not be silenced, Anas also posted a link to that Agyapong video.

“We … remain unshaken in our resolve to pursue nation-wreckers and make corruption a high-risk activity in the country,” Tiger Eye PI said. “Ahmed was an excellent, experienced investigative journalist.”

Report: Ashley Cole considering offer from Derby, Lampard

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Ashley Cole probably thought that when he joined the LA Galaxy in 2016, it would be the last club he played for before, literally, relaxing on a beach in retirement.

[ Transfer rumor roundup: Klopp wants USMNT starlet; Higuain dominoes ]

Considering he was 36 at the time — he is now 38 — it seemed obvious that England’s 107-times-capped left back would play out a final few years in MLS before calling full-time on his decorated career. Three years later, Cole might still do just that.

He might also resume playing after receiving a six-month contract offer from Championship side and promotion chasers Derby County, who are now coached by one of Cole’s longtime teammates and friends at Chelsea and England, Frank Lampard.

[ MORE: Top Premier League storylines for Week 23 ]

Cole has been without a club since his option was declined by the Galaxy following the end of the 2018 season.

According to the Guardian, the chance to play alongside a largely young, but promising, squad of players and to help Lampard guide the club to the Premier League in his first season as manager is very appealing to Cole.

Barcelona reach Copa del Rey QF but could be disqualified

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MADRID (AP) Barcelona earned a spot in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey on Thursday, but its continued participation in the tournament remains under threat.

[ Transfer rumor roundup: Klopp wants USMNT starlet; Higuain dominoes ]

Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele led Barcelona to a comfortable 3-0 win over Levante at Camp Nou Stadium, helping it advance 4-2 on aggregate. However, the Catalan club could be disqualified for allegedly using a suspended player in the first leg.

Levante said it will make a formal complaint to the Spanish soccer federation on Friday, ahead of the draw for the quarterfinals.

The four-time defending Copa champion has denied any wrongdoing for using youth player Juan “Chumi” Brandariz in last week’s match in Valencia.

“We don’t have any doubts,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “We believe we will be in the draw tomorrow. We did everything right and we won on the field, which is where we had to win.”

Levante said Chumi should not have played because of an accumulation of yellow cards with Barcelona’s “B” team, arguing that his suspension applied to the senior team as well, including in Copa matches.

“We prefer to win on the field, but the regulations exist and everyone needs to follow them,” Levante coach Paco Lopez said. “Let’s see what happens.”

The Spanish federation is expected to rule on Levante’s complaint before Friday’s draw.

Real Madrid was eliminated in the tournament’s round of 16 in 2015 for using striker Denis Cheryshev while he was suspended.

“We are surprised, we found out about it by the press,” Barcelona spokesman Josep Vives said. “We analyzed the situation and concluded that Chumi’s participation was legal.”

With Messi back in the lineup after being rested in the first leg, Barcelona easily reversed the 2-1 deficit from the first match. The Argentine playmaker set up goals by Dembele in the 30th and 31st minutes, then sealed the victory by scoring in the 54th.

Barcelona has made it at least to the quarterfinals in the Copa in nine straight seasons. It won the title five times in the last seven years.

Earlier Thursday, Espanyol defeated Villarreal 3-1 at home with two goals by striker Borja Iglesias to advance 5-3 on aggregate, while Real Betis salvaged a 2-2 draw at Real Sociedad to reach the last eight on away goals after a 0-0 first-leg draw.

Real Madrid, Girona, Valencia, Getafe and Sevilla also made it to the quarterfinals. Atletico Madrid was eliminated by Girona on Wednesday.

Top Premier League storylines for Week 23

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From the title race, to a four-way battle for top-four, to the relegation dogfight currently unfolding, this weekend’s slate of Premier League fixtures is full with a little bit of everything…

[ Transfer rumor roundup: Klopp wants USMNT starlet; Higuain dominoes ]

Top-four battle at the Emirates
Arsenal v. Chelsea, 12:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC [ STREAM ]

Chelsea occupy fourth place heading into the 23rd round of games this weekend, but Arsenal and Manchester United aren’t a million miles back of the Blues — only six points each, to be exact. Saturday’s showdown at the Emirates Stadium could see a six-point swing either way, or an opening of the door for the resurgent Red Devils to leapfrog Arsenal for fifth and trim the deficit between themselves and the UEFA Champions League places.


Will Liverpool slip up/Can Man City keep up?
Liverpool v. Crystal Palace, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on NBCSN STREAM ]
Huddersfield v. Man City, 8:30 a.m. ET, Sunday, on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Newsflash: the title race is a pretty important storyline and (likely) will continue to be so for the remainder of the season, barring a collapse by one of Liverpool or Manchester City. The defending champions have the easier matchup, on paper, this weekend as they’ll visit last-place and relegation-bound Huddersfield Town on Sunday. It should be a straightforward challenge for the Reds as well, though, with 14th-place Crystal Palace visiting Anfield on Saturday.


Life without Kane (and Son) begins… again
Fulham v. Tottenham Hotspur, 11 a.m. ET, Sunday, on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

No player in the PL has scored a higher percentage of his team’s goal this season than Tottenham’s Harry Kane (30 percent, tied with Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang). The trouble with that is that Kane is set to miss the next two months due to his annual mid-to-late-winter ankle injury. Thus, Mauricio Pochettino will be forced to pick between deploying Fernando Llorente as his starting center forward, or playing without a natural forward, thanks to Son Heung-min’s simultaneous call-up to the South Korea squad for the Asian Cup. Statistically speaking, Dele Alli has had a quiet season thus far (four goals, one assist), but Spurs desperately need Alli to show up and show out in a big way the next month or two.


Solskjaer goes for no. 6
Man United v. Brighton, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on CNBC STREAM ]

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer doesn’t know what it’s like to lose as manager of Man United. Heck, he couldn’t tell you the first thing about dropping points while in charge at Old Trafford. Five PL games in charge (six in all competitions), and whether or not the “interim” tag should be removed from his title is already an earnest topic of discussion. It wasn’t pretty, but United held on for dear life against Spurs last weekend and secured three points in Solskjaer’s biggest challenge to date. Up next is a visit from 13th-place Brighton & Hove Albion, who toppled United in their first meeting earlier this season.


Relegation six-pointer for Newcastle, Cardiff
Newcastle United v. Cardiff City, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

Much like the top of the table, the race at the bottom of the league is heating up. Heading into the weekend, Huddersfield are bringing up the rear, eight points adrift of safety, while Fulham occupy 19th place, five points back of 17th. Newcastle United, who sit 18th and are one point from exiting the relegation zone, will host Cardiff City, the side currently sitting 17th in the table, on Saturday. When you’ve struggled the way these sides have for 22 games, genuine chances at three points don’t come along often. When they do, you absolutely have to take them to have any hopes of surviving the drop.