Football: Australia give Kewell ultimatum

Click to follow
The Independent Online
HARRY KEWELL has been told to "make up his mind" about whether he wants to play for his country by the Soccer Australia chairman, Basil Scarsella.

Scarsella wants the Leeds United youngster to pledge his immediate future to the national side or risk the possibility of not playing in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers after Kewell pulled out of Sunday's prestigious friendly with Brazil in Sydney due to calf and ankle injuries. Scarsella is also threatening to evoke the five-day rule - which means the withdrawn player must not play for his club for five days after the international fixture - a measure that could lead to Kewell missing the Elland Road clash with Bradford on 20 November.

"In respect to the other [Australian] players coming, it would be disrespectful on our part if we ignored the Kewell situation when they are making all efforts to come back and play against Brazil," Scarsella said. "We have asked Harry to come anyway but we have had trouble trying to get in touch with him personally, so we are relying on the advice of his manager [Barry Neville].

"But Kewell should make up his mind whether he wants to play for Australia or not. If he doesn't regard playing for Australia as important that is for him to decide and we will prepare for 2002 without the uncertainty of having players pull out."

Soccer Australia are also on the brink of lodging an official complaint with Fifa, world football's governing body, over Kewell's withdrawal from the clash and, in a tit-for-tat measure, are intent he does not play against the Bantams.

Their chief executive, David Woolley, said: "We don't expect Fifa to do anything but ratify this application and Leeds have no one to blame but themselves for losing Kewell for the match. Their whole concern was to have him available for that game and against our better judgement we finally agreed he would play just the one match against Brazil and then he would fly back to Leeds to be available for Bradford. But this way he is going to miss that match so it doesn't make any sense. The whole objective of Leeds has been nullified."

But Leeds do have a strong case because, although Kewell was called up for the two matches with Brazil, on 14 and 17 November, they agreed with Soccer Australia for the winger to play only in Sunday's game. The five- day rule from that date would fall short of the Yorkshire derby and so allow Kewell to play.

"It's something we are having to look at," said the Leeds secretary, Ian Silvester. "He was called up for both matches, although we negotiated it down to one, so it might be an interesting one for Fifa. But I have a feeling the five-day rule will come into force from the 17th. We might have to accept that because what we don't want is to get embattled with Soccer Australia because it could have ramifications for the future.

"But this was Harry's decision. We are as disappointed with what's happened as everybody else. He just didn't tell us he wasn't reporting for international duty."