LOS ANGELES – Omer Gaber wasn't about to turn down Bob Bradley.
The American coach had brought Gaber into Egypt's national team when he was just 19, opening a door that enabled him to move to Europe, to Swiss power FC Basel. “Mr. Bob,” as he calls Bradley, was a huge figure in the 25-year-old midfielder's life, and he owed him plenty.
So when Bradley looked into bringing him to LAFC for the club's inaugural MLS campaign, Gaber was ready to roll right away.
“Mr. Bob, he's the one [who] chose me to represent the national team at the beginning,” Gaber said during Saturday's MLS Media Roundtable in Universal City. “I was 19 years old, and he chose me. ... He helped [me find] a place to play in Europe. He's a great coach and a great person as well, and I'm happy and excited to work with him again.
“I think we will achieve good things together this season.”
The chance to reunite with his former Egypt coach – Bradley guided the Pharaohs through a difficult period during and after the country's 2011 revolution and nearly prodded the team into the 2014 World Cup – couldn't have come at a better time.
Gaber, who speaks English, was seeing very little time with the reigning Swiss Super League and Swiss Cup winners, having logged just 90 minutes in league play this season. And here was a new opportunity to play vital minutes as he vies for a spot on Egypt's roster in Russia this summer, the country's first World Cup appearance since 1990.
Bradley, who debuted with the Pharaohs in November 2011 and was in charge for two years, is greatly admired in Egypt for his decision to remain in Cairo after the revolution – he and his wife attended street protests in the wake of the uprising – and for keeping the team together and competitive after the Egyptian Premier League was suspended following the Port Said Stadium Riot, in which 74 people were killed.
“It was a very bad situation in Egypt,” Gaber said. “The league was not playing regularly, so it was difficult to qualify [for 2014] in this time. But I think we did a very good job.”
The Pharaohs won their first six qualifying matches under Bradley but were eliminated in the last round by Ghana, which claimed the opener in a two-legged series by a 6-1 tally. Bradley won his final game in charge, beating the Black Stars, 2-1. Gaber was on Egypt's bench for three of the qualifiers.
“We didn't make it, but of course Mr. Bob, I think he built a new team for the national team," Gaber said. "That's why the people in Egypt, they still remember him, and they still like him so much.”
Bradley went on to productive stints with Stabaek in Norway and Le Havre in France, then a disappointingly brief tenure in the English Premier League with Swansea City before taking charge of MLS's newest club last summer. He began pursuing Gaber, who played in two of Egypt's 2018 World Cup qualifiers and was on the bench for the other five, as soon as he got the job.
The loan deal, in which LAFC has an option to purchase Gaber, was finalized in November.
“I think it's a very good club,” Gaber said. “When they started to speak to me, I felt that they are so professional and they have ambitions. They want to achieve good things. Of course, Mr. Bob Bradley, I was sure that I have to come when he spoke to me.”
Gaber, who was approached a few years ago by Columbus Crew SC, started hearing from other Egyptian players – and a few of his Basel teammates – as soon as the deal was done. They wanted in, too.
“MLS now is improving so much,” he said. “Most of the players in the world, they want to play in MLS now. They have very good players, very good teams, and the stadiums and everything. The atmosphere is perfect now for to play football. ... [Players] know that the MLS now is strong and that the life here is so beautiful.”
Gaber can play on either flank in midfield – his preferred position – or as a holding midfielder or right back.
“Mr. Bob, because he knew me and he knew my performances and knew everything, that I can play many positions,” Gaber said. “We didn't speak on this [yet about] where I will play, but I'm sure that he will put me in a good position that I like to play. I trust him.”
His goal for the inaugural season, he says, is “to win every game, to win any friendly games.” To win everything, more or less.
“From the first training, we have to work hard, so it will be tough for us, but I think we will do it,” Gaber said. “We have to [progress] far. We have to achieve things in the first season. It will be like history for us.”