Bora Milutinovic, shown while coach of the U.S. team in 1998, has taken five… (Mike Powell / Allsport )
Whether it was mysterious misdirection or merely deft handling of the media, there was no doubt about meeting soccer coach Bora Milutinovic for the first time.
The man was an original in every sense of the word.
A couple of us soccer newbies had driven to Mission Viejo to what was then the training headquarters of the U.S. men's national team in 1994 to gather material for the upcoming World Cup. (So long ago that it was a soccer world not yet dominated by AEG and so long ago that Alexi Lalas was still playing and defending, not commentating and tweeting.)
Anyhow, Bora was coming in and out of the room, friendly but not revealing much, if anything. At one point, he had left some papers on his desk and returned to flip them over. Certainly, he could have had deep scribbled intelligence on group opponents Switzerland or Colombia and it would not have meant a thing.
The tales of Bora, the Serbo-Latin sphinx, came to mind for several reasons last week. The Serbian-born international man of mystery (now 67) is one of two men to coach five teams in the World Cup — Carlos Alberto Parreria is the other.
Before the American World Cup experience, Bora coached Mexico (1986) and Costa Rica (1990), and after the run with the United States, Nigeria (1998) and China (2002). His club resume is even more far flung.
Now, no one could ever hope to be Bora on any level. But you wonder if former longtime U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley can pull off a modified Bora in his challenging new assignment with the Egyptian national team — a program in deep transition and a country grappling with an even bigger one.
Egypt has twice reached the World Cup, in 1934 and 1990, never winning a game. But its results in the 1990 World Cup were far from shabby: respectable draws against the Netherlands and Ireland and a 1-0 loss to England.
More recently, however, Egypt won the African Cup of Nations in 2010. Surprisingly, it did not qualify for the 2012 event, coming off a loss to South Africa, a tie against South Africa, and a 2-1 loss to Sierra Leone on Sept 3.
Bradley appeared in an Egyptian television interview shortly after his hiring became official and used the words "rebuild the team" in his first answer, taking aim at making the 2014 World Cup.
"I think when you put a team together, you need to have the proper balance between some players that have experience and understand what it takes to be successful with young talent," he said in the interview. "You have to work hard to try to find the right fit. And that will be the biggest part of the job, going forward."
Patience, a passport and, perhaps, a page or two from the Bora playbook with the media.
Carlito and his lost way
Carlos Tevez, the most hated man in Manchester?
No, try the whole country.
Tevez, of course, allegedly refused to come off of the bench in Manchester City's 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday and was suspended a day later, for two weeks by the franchise.
Most impressively, the Mail on Sunday jumped into the fray, investigating the matter by using "forensic lip readers."
Just wondering how that gets submitted on an expense report.