Socceroo Harry Kewell’s reputation as a thin-skinned egotist will only be enhanced by his petulant response to claims he has under-performed at international level.
A fired-up Harry Kewell has angrily hit back at criticism aimed at him by former Socceroos teammate Robbie Slater, saying claims he was a spent force for the national team were “disrespectful”.
In an explosive live interview aired on Fox Sports FC on Tuesday night, Kewell took aim at Slater over a column written in the Sunday Telegraph and also reacted angrily to Slater’s suggestions he had a run-in with a fellow Socceroos player at the recent World Cup who had told him to “f*** off”.
Revealing an insight into his disdain for the media, Kewell also refuted claims his handling of the injury problems surrounding his campaign in South Africa had caused a “circus” that acted as a distraction to the side.
Taking an opportunity for rebuttal against Slater’s comments, Kewell become engaged in an at-times heated argument with the football commentator.
“When I heard about the article and read the article, obviously I was disappointed that an ex-Australian teammate of mine would write something like that when he knows clearly that every time I’ve been in the Australian squad I’ve always shut my mouth, done my work and kept myself to myself and done the business on the park,” Kewell said via phone from Istanbul.
“When he writes something like a players told me to `F off’ and saying that I was no value to the Socceroos any more, I find that a little bit harsh.
“What gives the right to you Robbie, to make that kind of statement without knowing the actual facts?”
Asked whether he denied the incident happened, Kewell demanded Slater name the player in question and even hinted at legal action.
“If you’re 100 per cent behind that, I will deal with this because I’ve spoken to all of the players and none of them have turned around and said that,” Kewell said.
Kewell insisted his “boss”, possibly referring to then-manager Pim Verbeek, instructed him not to address the media at times in South Africa,
“I’m a player that does my job and I respect my bosses,” he said.
“… In my line of work I have respect, plain and simple, and I follow orders. I do my job on the park and I do my job off the park.
“The only circus created is one by him (Slater) and his mates and I’m ashamed by it.
“I sat down with him as a player and he had nothing bad to say to me, nothing, and now you want to create this circus? Because why? Are you jealous of me?”
Responding to a question regarding his fitness ahead of Australia’s opening match against Germany, which they lost 4-0 without Kewell, the Galatasaray winger insisted he was ready to play and that it was Verbeek’s call to leave him out of the team.’
“Was that my fault again? Was that me throwing a little tantrum? Was that me saying, `oh, I want to play’, no,” Kewell said.
“That was me again doing what my manager wanted. I was fit … it was Pim’s decision not to play me, not mine, I wanted to play.
“We were all sitting there going `how come I’m not playing?’ but we’re not all going to sit there and bitch. We don’t do that. We get on with our work, we support our teammates, we support our country. That’s what we do, we don’t sit there and bitch, not like you.”
Slater told Kewell he stood by his original comments and labelled some of the ex-Liverpool forward’s suggestions “ridiculous.”
Kewell reiterated his commitment to the national team, saying he would play for his country as long as he was picked.
“I’ve never demanded to be picked for Australia and when I’m no longer picked, you’ll hear not a single complaint by me,” Kewell said.
“Until then I’ll always play for my country.”