Football: Socceroos are hopping mad over Kewell twist

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LEEDS HIT back last night at claims by the promoters of Australia's friendlies with Brazil that they had withdrawn Harry Kewell. But the club were immediately attacked by the Australian football authorities, who may ask Fifa to suspend Kewell from the Premiership match against Bradford on 20 November.

International Management Group said Leeds told them they were pulling Kewell out of the first match because he had aggravated calf and ankle injuries during Sunday's defeat at Wimbledon. He had already been ruled out of the second friendly.

IMG's spokesman Bernie Mandic said: "Leeds have said because he is carrying a couple of injuries the trip to Australia would slow down the healing process and basically they wanted him to stay [at home]."

Kewell's agent, Barry Neville, confirmed that the forward has calf and ankle problems, but Leeds insist they have not told him he cannot play. The Elland Road club say they do not know if Kewell has pulled out and that as far as they were aware he had left to go to Australia.

In a statement the club said: "Leeds United agreed in writing with Soccer Australia to release Harry Kewell for the first game against Brazil on Sunday, 14 November 1999. This decision was agreed by the chairman Peter Ridsdale and manager David O'Leary and was conveyed directly to Harry Kewell. If for any reason... Kewell does not intend complying with the required call-up we can only presume that this is a personal decision."

Neville did not know if Kewell was in or out of the Australian squad for the game in Sydney, but he did know that he was injured.

The Soccer Australia chairman, Basil Scarsella, and the Socceroos coach, Frank Farina, attacked Leeds because they understood that the Premiership club had withdrawn Kewell. Scarsella accused them of acting "unprofessionally" and may ask Fifa for the suspension. "I am amazed that a Premier League club like Leeds United would go to such extremes," he said.

An equally indignant Farina said: "It's not even funny any more."