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Managing the team amid political chaos has been Bradley’s main challenge. A stadium riot in the Mediterranean city of Port Said last year left 74 dead and devastated the sport, leading to the cancellation of games and the closure of others to fans.

More violence erupted earlier this year, when seven police officers were acquitted in a trial over the melee, while death sentences against 21 alleged rioters were confirmed. Angry fans rampaged through the heart of Cairo, storming the Egyptian soccer federation’s headquarters before setting it ablaze.

Then in July, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, was ousted in a military coup that followed protests by millions demanding he step down. Since then, Morsi’s supporters have staged near-daily protests and hundreds have been killed in a crackdown.

Through it all, soccer-crazed Egyptians were banking on the Pharaohs to earn a spot at next year’s World Cup in Brazil, hoping that qualifying for the tournament for the first time in decades will restore some national pride and help bridge deep political and social divisions.

The turmoil has taken a toll on Bradley’s squad in the key match of the qualifying campaign.

“When we went on the field in Kumasi last week, these were some of the things that the players were carrying on their shoulders,” Bradley said. “It’s a lot to ask of the players in a football match.”

He defended his players and said he’d like to be with them during the final match next month that he hopes will take place in the Egyptian capital to give the national team a chance to restore pride to the game and the American coach a chance for a dignified exit from the country.

“Our team has worked very, very hard to try and make a dream, an important dream for all Egyptians,” Bradley said. “I am sad that we’ve put ourselves in a position right now where that dream is at risk.

“It’s going to be difficult, but we still have 90 more minutes,” Bradley said.


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