Football: Australians take hard line on Kewell

Click to follow
The Independent Online
AUSTRALIA's top football officials are insisting that they will not back down in the tug-of-war for the services of the talented Leeds United striker, Harry Kewell.

An angry George Graham, the Leeds manager, pulled Kewell out of Australia's Olympic squad for a three-game friendly series with Brazil after the player aggravated a groin injury against Derby two weeks ago - but then learned that Soccer Australia, the country's football ruling body, had invoked Fifa rules to stop Kewell playing against West Ham in tonight's Premiership fixture at Upton Park.

"We cannot have playing for Australia as an optional thing," Soccer Australia's chairman David Hill, who is on the Olympic committee of Fifa, world football's governing body, said. "The paying public expects the best, and we will put out the best.

"We are aware of the burden that has fallen on Harry Kewell. He's in the unfortunate position of being a very talented individual. We have sympathy for him but we have to select the best players for our national teams. But for too long we allowed players to play or not play for Australia - but we owe it to soccer supporters to put out our best. We will apply the Fifa rules when we have to - as we have done in Kewell's case."

Graham retorted: "We are concerned about the way Australia have prevented Harry playing for us on Monday without having the dignity or courtesy to enquire about his injury."

The player, meanwhile, has apparently decided that his loyalties lie with his club. "Harry has reached a decision that he doesn't want to be considered for the Australians' Olympic team," Graham insisted.