When the Port Said riots ended the lives of 74 people during a soccer match on Feb. 1, Egyptian national team head coach Bob Bradley was confronted with a difficult decision.
He could have gone toward the route of self preservation, stepping down as coach and returning to the United States. No one would have begrudged Bradley for that choice. With lives constantly at stake due to an ongoing revolution in the country and the future of Egyptian soccer in the balance, ensuring the safety of his wife along with looking for more stable employment would have been a prudent option.
Yet, Bradley knew how important soccer was to the morale of each Egyptian. He understood that in a country split on its beliefs, the one unifier was the Pharaohs, the national team. As daunting as the task was, there was no way Bradley could leave his players or his adopted country behind.
"Camps and friendlies [after the tragedy] became the opportunities to refocus the players on the dream of all Egyptians - to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil," Bradley told Goal.com.
"We emphasized the need to be strong and to never let the distractions take us away from this dream. We established a vision for our team, a way of working, communicating and trusting each other. That in this difficult period we could do something special."
| 'Perseverance through the turmoil'
It was a good year for American soccer. For me, the biggest American influence on the game worldwide was former USA boss Bob Bradley, the head coach of Egypt.
Upon taking the Egypt post late in 2011, Bradley became the first American manager to be hired for a major international job, and since then he's represented the country with the type of class we've come to expect of him.
Allen Ramsey | Goal.com USA Chief Editor
It was already a groundbreaking move for Bradley to take a major international job abroad, let alone in the Middle East where the thoughts about Americans aren't always the greatest. The fact that Bradley remained committed to the Pharaohs in a country with volatile instability served as an inspiration not only to Egyptians but to many back in the United States as well.
Seeing pictures of Bradley and his wife Lindsay being a part of the memorial services or his daughters helping in hospitals in the country, displayed how much Bradley allowed his family to be immersed in the currents events of his adopted country. Bradley had his share of critics during his tenure as the head coach of the U.S., but even his staunchest critics are hoping that he succeeds in bringing Egypt to its first World Cup in over 20 years.
Bradley acknowledges that reaching the 2014 World Cup will be difficult but he is encouraged by recent developments. He has found a valuable leader in Mohamed Aboutrika, who won African Player of the Year, and new talent is emerging. One of Egypt's top prospects, Mohamed Salah, has joined Swiss side FC Basel and center back Ahmed Hegazy plays for Serie A side Fiorentina.
Egypt has also gotten off to a solid start in World Cup qualifying, gaining six points in its first two games. Bradley knows that there will be challenges and uncertainties that lie ahead for him and his team but he is undaunted and determined to see Egypt reach its dream.
"[There are] many unanswered questions," Bradley said. "League or no league? Fans or no fans? Very few answers. But one thing remains clear - the belief that we can get to Brazil. I continually tell the players to keep their eyes on the prize."
The Voting Process
The voting panel consisted of six editors, one columnist and the fans, whose votes counted double from the editors. Bradley received four first-place votes (worth two points each) and two second-place votes (one point) amounting to a total of 10 points. Tottenham attacking midfielder Clint Dempsey and United States boss Jurgen Klinsmann came in second and third respectively. Dempsey (eight points) was the overwhelming favorite of fan voters winning 31 percent of the reader poll while gaining one first-place vote and two second place votes. Klinsmann had two first-place editor votes and was second in fan voting with 21 percent of the vote for six points. NBC Sports came in fourth with three second-place votes.
1. Bob Bradley (10)
2. Clint Dempsey (8)
3. Jurgen Klinsmann (6)
4. NBC Sports (3)
5. Abby Wambach (1)
6. Michael Bradley (0)
7. Pia Sundhage (0)
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- Bob Bradley