Soccer fans looking for a way to be part of WC2014, documentarians Dave LaMattina and Chad Walker followed Bob Bradley on his questionably sane task to coach the Egyptian National Team to Brazil.
Arab Spring got in the way.
The film captures not so much Bradley’s journey, but the journey of Egypt’s young people and one ardent soccer fan base, the Ultras Ahlawy.
I hadn’t thought about what it would be like to attend a soccer game, and in trying to escape the chaotic darkness of a riot, to be herded into a dead end where opposing fans stab and club 70 of your friends to death. While the police watch. Or, carried into the locker room, you die while one of Egypt’s greatest players administers your last words. I hadn’t thought about the surviving family of a victim, who gets some comfort from seeing his face daily around town in the graffiti walls of martyrs.
The film credits the Ultras with leading the Arab Spring protests. In a military-controlled society, they were uniquely fearless from years of experience in battling security forces. For me, this was a refreshingly contrasting view of supporters groups, which historically are thugs, gangsters, and mercenaries for politicians (read “How Soccer Explains the World”).
Bob Bradley brought Mo Salah onto the NT
Through all this, Bob Bradley stays firm and committed to staying in Egypt. He coaches the team through 1.5 years and 8 qualifying games. His contract is not renewed, but he subsequently achieves his dream of coaching in Europe, when he and assistant Tomasz Kaczmarek move on to Stabek in Norway.
The film has other good touches, such as why playing in Europe is difficult for Mohamed Salah, whom Bradley brought on to the senior team at age 19, and is now on loan from Chelsea.
There is a lot of slo-mo footage from the qualifying games. I enjoyed this Bradley quote on playing in a stadium without fans:
“When we played that first qualifier, we talked about looking into the empty stands and seeing your supporters, seeing Egyptians. But in reality you need people there. You can only talk like that once.”– Coach Bob Bradley
Later, a crowd permitted at 10,000 helped them win 2-1 vs Mozambique.
It took 2 years to create this film, although concurrently, the filmmakers’ Copper Pot Pictures produced the well-received documentary I am Big Bird.
6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6