Back With a Bang

With a new team and a new life in a different culture, HARRY KEWELL is scoring goals and loving his football once again

With a new team and a new life in a different culture, HARRY KEWELL is scoring goals and loving his football once again

WHEN Harry Kewell decided to swap the glamour of Liverpool and the English Premier League for the relative rough-and-tumble of Turkey-s Super Lig, many fans and commentators questioned the Socceroo-s choice.

But six months after signing a two-year deal with Galatasaray, Kewell-s choice has been vindicated.

Despite returning to Australia over Christmas for surgery on his troublesome groin, Kewell-s move to Turkey has coincided with a return to full fitness and to his scoring ways. The Australian has quickly become a favourite of his new fans, scoring eight goals in sixteen games.

With Australia-s World Cup qualifying campaign moving into its crucial stage, an in-form Harry Kewell has never been more important.

Here, Kewell tells AFW about his new life in Turkey, what it-s like playing in the Super Lig, and the Socceroos- World Cup assault.

On his decision to move to Turkey… “You could say it-s a new chapter. I know that the fans are passionate about sport and I love that. I can-t wait to get more of it.

“I wanted to move on and this is the best way. I can-t wait to get started; it-s just what I-m looking forward to, a new challenge. My season has been good so far. I have been playing a few games now and am enjoying the free role that I have. It-s also good to be playing regular games again.”

On his return to goal-scoring ways… “The goal scoring spree happened when I joined Liverpool as well, so I-m hoping that I can go better here. I-m enjoying my football here though. I have taken opportunities for the team and they have paid off.

“As a footballer, you just have to go out on the pitch and not only do it for the team, but for yourself as well. I feel like I-m doing that here. Life is good.

“I didn-t have to change my game when I came here. The football in Turkey is quite similar to the Premier League. It-s fast and furious football. There is also a lot of attacking, which is good for me being an attacker. If you have a good mentality, there are more opportunities to score here.”

On settling into his new team… “Managers come and go, but getting to know new teammates is a little more difficult. But within the first two days here, everyone made me feel welcome. I get along with all of the guys. It-s a good mix we have here at Galatasaray. Three quarters of the team are Turkish whilst the rest of the team is made up from around the world including an Australian, a Brazilian and a Portuguese.”

On living in a new culture… “It was something different moving to Turkey. But it-s been a positive move so far. It-s quite a fascinating place to live. The people who live in Istanbul are very passionate but this can be their worst enemy as they tend to stay in Turkey and don-t go and experience other cultures. The thing that hit me when I moved here was the mosques. I live near one and they are quite breathtaking. Listening to the praying is quite soothing.

On his new fans… “Liverpool fans don-t compare at all to Galatasaray fans. The fans are the most dedicated that I have ever seen in my career. We were at a game earlier this year in Germany and there were 62,000 fans there. But 40,000 of them were our fans. They travel all over Europe to watch us play. They are totally fanatical and the team love the support.

On the game in Turkey… “The game here is very similar to England. We may not have the same calibre of players but the game is held highly regarded here. Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray all do well in Europe, so the Superlig definitely has a good reputation. It-s hard to compare Leagues though. At the end of the day the Premier League attracts the best players in the world. The big Leagues in Europe are the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A but I think that the Superlig is just behind those three. The only area that is weak and needs to be worked on in Turkey is defence. But the teams are attracting some class players and the competition seems to improving.”

On the gamesmanship in European football… “When I was in England, people made too much fuss over the diving and the abuse of referees. Everyone has an opinion, including the media who seem to control the game over there. Diving and the abuse of referees will always be a part of football, you can-t and won-t stop that. Ex-footballers come out blasting players one week and then they are fine about it the next week. It-s crazy. Football is football, so let them play football. People make too much of the issue though.”

On the Socceroos- World Cup campaign so far… “We have had a good qualifying campaign so far, but it-s not over till that last game. We need a bit of kick up the backside. Pim (Verbeek) has been disappointed in us the last two games so we need to get that right for the next qualifier. I think the next World Cup will be hard for us. This will depend on the group we get placed in, but there are going to be more eyes on us this time around.

On the team-s disappointing showing against Bahrain… “In this day and age, we just have to play in whatever conditions are presented, be it the heat or the cold. With the heat, it was a little hard to adjust, but we did our best to acclimatise to the conditions. We just dealt with the weather and got on with the job.”

On Pim Verbeek and the World Cup 2010… “No one expected us to do so well in Germany, so obviously that is going to place more pressure on his come 2010. It won-t be just the fans who will be watching us closely, I think a lot of the other teams will be as well. Pim has had a very good start with the Socceroos. I guess he has learnt off the best in the form of Guus (Hiddink). He works with a great team and hopefully we can repay his faith.

“I have gotten on well with all of the managers. Guus was strict and strong to work with, but it was a pleasure to have played underneath him.”

On the future… “Promoting football is difficult in Australia. There is so much sport there, so there will always be an uphill battle. But the FFA seem to be doing enough for the moment and with the success of the last World Cup, that has helped.

“You never know what the future holds. I-m not sure what I will do next. My family are in Europe now so my home is wherever they are.”