What price to catch a falling star?

by Francis Leach on Jul 11, 2011

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What price to catch a falling star?

This is the question that has been hotly debated by Australian football fans for over a month now as the Harry Kewell transfer saga rumbles on.

In customary Harry fashion, what should be a conventional affair has turned into a soap opera, with a script even his soap star wife might baulk at taking on.

The star crossed Socceroo has found himself being accused of being a rapacious mercenary, heading home to the A-League for one last big payday. With reports that the cash was to come from from an intricate split of gate receipts from away games, the former Leeds, Liverpool and Galatasaray star appeared to split the football community.

Why should fans of opposing clubs be shelling out to line the pockets of a millionaire footballer that turns up to play against their club?

And since when was the game about a headline act? A Harrypalooza, with Kewell as the closing act and his team mates on the under card. It was the hubris of this suggestion as much as any thing else that rankled with many.

That, and Kewell's long time manager Bernie Mandic who conducted his negotiations through the media and with all the diplomacy of a used car salesman after a long lunch.

Kewell insists, as he always does in these matters, that he's been misunderstood - - floating a plan to establish an academy for underprivileged kids as part of his ambitions.

If so, he's been badly let down by his manager and his belligerent media campaign which never once mentioned any such thing and insisted Harry's needs bet met first before some kids in Cabramatta are looked after.

Football lovers are used to Mandic and his Malcolm McLaren in football boots routine.

For the FFA the whole thing is a PR disaster, as the casual fan and the non-believers - the very people that signing Kewell is supposed to appeal to - have their prejudices about the game reinforced.

Eddie McGuire didn't miss his chance to put in a two-footed tackle by referring to the game’s "screw you culture". Of course he's wrong, but that's not really the point.

In the battle for hearts and minds, perception is top of the table every time.

This falling star might come at a cost the game has already paid.