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Eye of the Storm

After a deadly soccer riot, an American coaching in Egypt makes a case for solidarity

In the days before last week's Egyptian league soccer game between Al-Masry and Al-Ahly, Bob Bradley heard about the potential for violence between groups of opposing fans. The clubs had a history of conflict, and Bradley, the former U.S. men's coach who now heads Egypt's national team, decided to stay at home in Cairo and attend a different game. Yet nobody predicted the carnage that would take place after the match in Port Said: At least 74 people died in clashes in and around the stadium.

In the days following the riot, thousands of Egyptians protested the lack of security at the stadium, and speculation was rife that Egypt's military rulers were using the chaos to extend their emergency powers. Last year groups of organized soccer fans played a central role in the demonstrations that led to the departure of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, and the palpable tension between them and army leaders continues. Yet Bradley stayed in Egypt last week. He and his wife, Lindsay, marched to honor the victims last Thursday in Cairo. "When an incident like this happens and you're in any position of leadership, there's a responsibility," Bradley said. "It means a lot to people that you're with them."

Egypt has one of Africa's richest soccer traditions, but the national team hasn't qualified for the World Cup since 1990. If Bradley can lead the Pharaohs to Brazil 2014, it would be important for national pride. "With all the passion and the hope for the future in this country, a dream is to go to the World Cup," said Bradley. "That we can all work to make this happen is all part of pulling together."



PITCH BATTLE Bradley, a former U.S. national coach now guiding the Egyptian team, believes soccer can be a unifying force in that country.



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