The Kewell factor

The Kewell factor

Published in the Geelong Advertiser, 23 September 2011, p. 30, as ‘Harry’s tail has a flick.’

Roy Hay

It did not take Harry Kewell and his manager Bernie Mandic long to stir up trouble for the Football Federation Australia and the game in this country.

It is reported that he is signing a deal with the Ford motor company, while the A-League in which he is scheduled to play is sponsored by Hyundai.

This type of conflict was widely predicted during the tortuous negotiations for Kewell’s signature and apparently he has not yet signed the standard players contract which explicitly prevents promotional deals with companies whose products rival those of FFA sponsors.

If the Ford deal is locked in before he does, then he can claim that this was a pre-existing arrangement which might escape the FFA ban.

It is reminiscent of the battle in the 1950s when a number of high quality players arrived from Europe to play for Australian clubs, who claimed that these were just migrants who wanted to play the game when they were here.

The European clubs and the governing body FIFA were not fooled and insisted that transfer fees be paid to the clubs that had lost their stars.

When the Australian Soccer Federation and the clubs did not pay up, FIFA suspended its membership from 1960 to 1963, when a compromise payment was made.

Expect the FFA to be equally obdurate in this case.

Meanwhile Victory membership has jumped since Harry agreed to his ‘unconditional’ contract with the Melbourne club.

How far this can be attributed to the Kewell factor and how far it is the awareness among fans and former members that the season is due to start in the first week in October remains uncertain.

No doubt the buzz surrounding his arrival drew in many who might not otherwise have paid their membership, but to attribute it all to Kewell could be problematic.

Finally a question.

Were the ratings for that notoriously anti-football program The Footy Show so poor that they had to jump on the Kewell bandwagon to get him to take penalty kicks against Sam Newman last Thursday.

On the program both Gary Lyon and Newman claimed that they had watched Kewell in Munich in 2006 when Australia played in the World Cup.

What was hardly mentioned was that Lyon was overwhelmed by the event and wrote in glowing terms about the game.

‘As for soccer, I have had no interest, other than to argue arrogantly that the game will never be known as football here in Australia and that I will be long gone before it threatens our beautiful game as the No.1 ball game in this country. It has taken a trip to the other side of the world, to witness the most amazing sporting festival you could imagine, to see the true game of football through the eyes of those who have been championing it for decades as the biggest sport on the planet. To be over there was a humbling experience. It is hard to argue against those who say it is the biggest sporting event in the world. I have been to the Olympics and they have a dignified prestige attached to them that demands everyone’s respect. But the World Cup is a seething mass of emotion where the passion generated by coaches, players and supporters is the closest thing to war without weapons that you are likely to find. The focus on the games reduces presidents and prime ministers to the same level as factory workers and school kids; that of the everyday sports fan.’

The other item not mentioned, was that Newman was set upon by an Australian football fan in Munich who was incensed at the blatant band-wagon jumping which occurred when he arrived to promote a Footy Show extravaganza broadcast from Germany in 2006.

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