Kewell : The Destruction of a Man-Crush
Not since Robbie Williams lost his mind, chased after UFO’s and then re-joined Take That, has a grown man so broken my heart.
Last month, Harry Kewell signed a three-year deal with the Melbourne Victory for an unnamed sum of money, a percentage of meat pies sold, and whatever change falls out of kids pockets when Bernie Mandic turns them upside down and shakes them as they enter AAMI Park.
That’s it, Harry. I’m out.
I just need some space. It’s not you, it’s your abductor muscles. I need to do my stalking at a Premier League level. There is another man (he’s Uruguayan, and yes, he’s a bit of a biter, but still). No, shush, don’t say anything (seriously – don’t speak). We’ll always have Istanbul. Also – I just saw photos of you at Melbourne airport, and it looks like you’ve put on a few.
Although I first batted eyelids at Harry during his Leeds days, it was in 2003 when I truly fell in love. The fleet-footed Australian had signed with my beloved Liverpool, and would don the famous number 7 jersey. Mine was purchased overnight – helping Kewell to set an early sales record at the Liverpool store. Yet, as Fernando Torres would prove seven years later, moving in the opposite direction to Chelsea, shirt sales do not necessarily maketh the goals.
Like a good, obedient man-crusher, I defended Harry against any and all detractors. Writing a rebuttal every time Mike Cockerill sat down at his computer became a full time job. There were good times and bad – for every half-completed Champions League Final, there was that crucial goal against Croatia. Even in the South African World Cup campaign last year, Harry’s sending off was a result of commitment and vision, and was tinged with sadness. Watching him dart towards the far post in the lead up still makes me shake my head in a mixture of awe and frustration.
My issue with Kewell now is not the destination – it was the journey.
There is a saying in political circles (at least there is in the West Wing universe) – that nobody likes to see how the sausage is made. The idea is simple – if we, as the consumer, had to witness just what goes into the making of a sausage (or the making of laws, or in this case, football contracts), we’d never have the stomach to eat one again.
Bernie Mandic, Harry’s controversial and long-time agent, showed Australia how the sausage is made.
Given a polite “thanks, but no thanks” by Turkish giants Galatasary, Kewell became a free agent and was linked to more clubs than Frank “Yes, I’m Available” Rijkaard. As the focus switched to the Australian A-League, heavyweights Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory were favourites to land the star. The Newcastle Jets – now waving around Nathan Tinkler’s Visa card, were in the running momentarily, but managed to step away and still maintain some dignity.
Throughout the protracted transfer saga, news came to light of the various demands Kewell and Mandic were allegedly making on potential employers, from an acting gig for wife Sheree to luxury cars and – probably the most bizarre and offensive – the ability to pick players in his chosen club’s squad. He even – again, allegedly – demanded funds from the FFA, just for deigning to come home. And while many of these reports are hotly refuted by Kewell’s camp, the fact that stories like these exist at all means somebody was royally pissed off. Mandic’s fingerprints are everywhere.
What should have been a joyous moment for Australian football was too transparent, and Kewell’s history of both injury and greed have set the stage for frustration and obscurity.
In contrast with Kewell and the Melbourne Victory, the real coup for the A-League may just be the signing of Brett Emerton to Sydney FC.
At the end of August, the Blackburn Rovers stalwart marched his side onto the Ewood Park turf as their captain, to a standing ovation from fans. Emerton had been with the club for 8 years, making him their longest serving member of the squad at the time of his departure. Tim Cahill recently described Emerton as “the biggest catch in the history of Australian football”, saying the man “is a player who goes about his business very quietly, he is the best player I have ever trained and worked with.” He makes his way now to Sydney FC, in a deal worth… that’s just it. I’m not sure.
For all we know, part of Emerton’s new contract for Sydney FC might include his own private dressing room that contains a tethered baby elephant named Angela, whose job it is too feed him individually shelled peanuts. But we don’t know many details – and Emerton strikes me as the type of graceful, hard-working player who will have a huge impact for his new club.
So here I am – lonely, looking for a man-crush rebound, and with an A-League season pass in my back pocket. Brett Emerton…. do you come here often?