Harry Kewell’s manager believes his client has “strong grounds” for legal action against former Socceroos teammate Robbie Slater but admits it would be the last thing Australian football needs.
Bernie Mandic says he and Kewell are more interested in the “truth” over allegations made in a newspaper column by Slater and has again called on the football commentator to name the player he claims told the Socceroos forward to `F*** off’ at a team dinner at the recent World Cup.
In the wake of Slater’s article published in the Sunday Telegraph two weeks ago, the former Australian teammates had a heated argument on live television during the Fox Sports FC program on Tuesday night.
Slater used his column to question injury-prone Kewell’s role in the national team, and cited a supposed confrontation between he and another Australian player in South Africa as an example of the “circus” his presence had created.
Mandic said there was no issue with criticism of Kewell as a player but claimed the story of the incident had been fabricated.
“We’ve never ever had an issue with anyone having an opinion, but when you describe a lie as an opinion, now that is the issue,” Mandic told AAP from Croatia.
“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, no problem … but to actually say that a player said that to Harry when it never happened it scurrilous, it’s plain bloody un-Australian.”
Kewell hints legal action
Kewell hinted at legal action during Tuesday’s nights interview with Slater via phone hook-up, saying: “I’ll deal with this”
Mandic confirmed it was an option but said he was loathe to go down that road.
“If Robbie backs away, there’s no point in doing it, all it’s doing is filling the pockets of lawyers for no reason,” Mandic said.
“But Harry’s made his point, I think everybody understands where it’s come from but it’s very simple Robbie – put up or shut up.
“We’ve got very strong grounds for legal action but it’s not something you want to be doing and getting caught up in and it’s the last thing football needs.
“We’ve been advised that it’s a no brainer but we’re not about that we’re about the truth.
“It would just be nice if the football media of Australia took their job seriously.
“Most do but a couple of them sit around like old women gossiping about things and then use the gossip as supposed fact to do stories and people want to know why the sport isn’t growing.
“Who the hell is going to take the sport seriously when you’ve these old wives’ tales that circulate?”
Mandic maintained Kewell had spoken with the player in question, and others who were sitting at the table when the incident was supposed to have occurred, and heard nothing of the such.
Slater on Wednesday stood firm on his story and labelled Kewell’s fiery response as an over-reaction.
Blow up ‘not ideal’
He said the on-air blow up was “not ideal” and said he did not mean for the incident to become the focal point of his story.
“It’s become the main focus of my column, which it isn’t,” Slater told fans on the Fox Sports website.
“I mentioned the comment to show there was disharmony in South Africa.”
But he vowed he would not name names.
“I’m not a career journalist, but it would be wrong for me to name my source and I’m not going to,” he said.
“At the end of the day, there were many people who witnessed the incident. The incident was fairly common knowledge among the media in South Africa. It’s fairly common within teams for this to happen within teams. It certainly happened in my time.”
Football Federation Australia on Wednesday refused to weigh into the controversy.
“Football Federation Australia does not intend to get involved in this matter and we are focused on preparing the Socceroos for the upcoming international friendly matches and AFC Asian Cup,” a spokesman said.