“The biggest lesson is that in football you can always do everything right and still not succeed.”
JPW spent a few days in Norway with Bradley for a wide-ranging piece that delves into everything from the States to his time coaching Egypt to even his son, Michael (A topic he generally avoids but tells JPW his son wants to be a combination of Mark Messier and Roy Keane, which is admirable and perfect).
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The Stabaek stuff is revealing, as Bradley has again adjusted to a wildly-different sporting culture to pilot his club in a manner that’s having him called “the best coach that has ever been” at Stabaek.
At times the piece is downright emotional, like when Bradley tells JPW about the Port Said Stadium riot that saw 72 people killed after an Egyptian Premier League game.
“The one moment that I remember more than any one moment was still the meeting that I had with Mohamed Aboutrika after Port Said,” Bradley said, taking deep pauses throughout his next statement.
Recalling the massacre of 72 people inside the stadium on that day when the revolution was in full flow in Egypt wasn’t easy for Bradley. Over two years on from that dark day in the soccer world and Egypt’s uprising, you sense his connection with the Egyptian people and his players was a strong one. Aboutrieka, a gifted Egyptian forward who played for Al Ahly, was said to have held dying fans in his arms as the Al Ahly fans were attacked due to their political beliefs. Bradley heard that Aboutrieka was quitting the game. Then came his meeting that changed everything.
“For the players at Ahly, their locker room was the first-aid station. Young boys … dying in their locker room,” Bradley says, looking down at the plastic cup in his hand. “After that, it came out that Aboutreika was finished, he was retiring, and he said, ‘How could something like this happen on a football pitch?’ The first time I saw him at all after Port Said was the memorial and I just shook his hand and hugged him and then I see him at training and then I say, (Bradley lowering his voice,) ‘We need to find a time to talk.’ We set up a meeting and it had to be done very quietly because he didn’t want everyone knowing about it and the wrong things being said about it. We have this meeting; it was after Port Said and you can still see all the emotion on these guys. In that meeting you could see how motivated he was to have one more chance to get to the World Cup. I had heard he was a really good man. The way he handled not being selected was totally different than most would’ve handled it and now you have this chance to talk to him, see him, look at him. When it was finished I said, ‘I can’t guarantee anything. If I bring you in whether you play 90 minutes or 45 minutes but I think together we can try to make this happen.’
“There was a feeling at that point that,” Bradley’s voice crackled with emotion, “that ‘I’ve got my blood brother here. This is what we are going to do.’”
Wow. Take the time to read the entire piece. You’ll find admiration for Bradley whether you’re already a fan or one of the detractors that wanted him gone from the USMNT job.