American Abroad

An American Coach Finds His Way in Bahrain

Former Real Maryland FC and Newport County AFC coach Anthony Hudson finds himself guiding the Gulf country's U-23 squad. It seems to be working out so far.
BY Noah Davis Posted
February 20, 2013
2:08 PM
Anthony Hudson traveled a strange path to Bahrain. There was a playing career that ended too soon, then coaching stopovers at Real Maryland FC, Tottenham Hotspur, and Newport County AFC. When Peter Taylor called and offered him the job as the Arab country's Olympic coach, overseeing everything from the U-19s to the U-23s, the 31-year-old jumped on board. Taylor was subsequently fired after a run of poor form, but Hudson remains and he loves the gig.

"There's certainly talent here," he told ASN via Skype. "I love working with the young players here. They love training. They want to do well."

But Hudson is learning to be cautious. Taylor's experience was instructive. Bahrain's senior team played a series of games against superior opposition, losing them all. Then, the head coach lost his job. "You end up playing games because other people want you to play games and it's not the best thing for the team," Hudson said, adding that he was asked to play matches with Qatar, Iraq, Iran, England, and possibly France but declined. Fixtures like that might have been good for the visibility of the country's program, but his team isn't ready for the high level of competition.

The main reason is that it's hard for Hudson to get his players together for an extended period of time. They are scattered all over club squads in the Gulf and many of them aren't getting first-team minutes because they are young players.

"We try to train once or twice a week," he says. "If we're lucky we can get together four times in a month."

But Hudson is doing what he can. Bahrain's U-23s side finished second at the 2012 Gulf Cup Championship, losing to Saudi Arabia in the final but posting its best result ever. The coach hopes his team can do one place better when the tournament takes place again in September, and he's working towards that goal. The squad trains together during FIFA dates and continues to come together. The shared culture, which is so different from the ones in which Hudson grew up, helps.

"[Before we go on the field,] there are players in the other room praying. The culture is different. I think it's good as well," he says. "From a team standpoint, their religion adds to the team spirit and the togetherness. There's a higher purpose, which I think is good before a game. You can get nervous, but these things are good for team spirit."

The players accept their American-born coach. They know he's working for them.

"I don't think it matters where you're from," he says. "I think if you work with honesty and you show that you're there to make them players better, I think you can come from any background."

Spoken like someone who's been around the world a few times.

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