Kewell confirms football retirement

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Australia great Harry Kewell announced he will retire at the end of the A-League season, with his final game to be for Melbourne Heart on Saturday 12 April at AAMI Park.

Unavailable for the next two matches against Brisbane Roar and Adelaide United due to an abdominal strain, Kewell is a certain starter for the Round 27 encounter with WSW.

The 35-year-old confirmed at a press conference that he will hang up his boots after that match and declared that he is looking forward to his life after football - which will include writing a book.

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"What's next for me? I can clearly start working on my golf swing," Kewell said.

"Just being a dad really and doing things that most people take for granted. Also working on my academy and teaching young Australian kids how I was taught.

"It's been tough," Kewell said of his retirement decision.

"I've talked to a lot of people recently and it's hard because it's the only sport I've ever known.

"I started when I was four and started professionally when I was 17 and had a career of 18 years.

"It's a life I've already lived and now I get a chance to live another one."

Kewell paid tribute to all the clubs he has played for professionally and declared that the two people that most influenced his career were his dad Rod, for his encouragement and teaching him how to "be a man" and his wife Sheree, who he said has stuck by him through thick and thin.

He said he was extremely proud to have been voted by the public, and a panel of experts, as Australia's greatest ever footballer, and summed up in three words what playing for his country meant to him: "pride, privilege and honour".

"I always said, it was a privilege and honour to play for your country and you've got to be playing at the highest level to do that.

After another injury-marred season, Kewell appeared philosophical about missing out on the World Cup starting in June, accepting he probably wasn't part of coach Ange Postecoglou's plans.

After being out of the national team set-up since 2012, Kewell said it was time for the next generation of Socceroos to step up and be counted at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

"For the World Cup I can sit back and enjoy it," he said.

"There's obviously going to be questions asked about the World Cup but I haven't been part of the Australian squad for a while.

"For me it was time to step aside and let young players stand up.

"I think they will surprise a lot of people.

Kewell's long-time national team-mate, Tim Cahill, saluted his countrymen on Twitter:

Football Federation Australia (FFA) Chief Executive David Gallop lauded Kewell as one of the greatest Australian footballers of all time.

"Harry was a genuine superstar for the Socceroos and his clubs in Europe and Australia,' Gallop said. 'Harry made football cool for generations of Aussie kids.

'His goal against Croatia in 2006 delivered our best ever World Cup finish and his return to the A-League in 2011 was the spark that set off the huge increases in crowds and TV ratings.

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"On behalf of the football community, I congratulate Harry on a marvellous career and wish him well with the next part of his journey. We'll find the best way to allow the public to pay tribute, including when we say farewell to the Socceroos at ANZ Stadium on 26 May."

Harry Kewell Fact File

Born: Harold Kewell to parents Rod and Helen
Birthplace: Smithfield, western Sydney
Date of Birth: 22 September 1978

Junior clubs
Smithfield Hotspurs, Marconi Stallions, Leeds United

Professional clubs
1996-2003: Leeds United (242 games, 63 goals)
2003-2008: Liverpool (138 games, 18 goals)
2008-2011: Galatasaray (76 games, 28 goals)
2011-2012: Melbourne Victory (25 games, 8 goals)
2013: Al-Gharafa (3 games, 1 goal)
2013-2014: Melbourne Heart (15 games, 2 goals)

National team
1996-2012 Australia (56 caps, 17 goals)

Harry Kewell highs and lows

1995 - Signs a contract at English club Leeds United after impressing on a trial
1996 - Makes Leeds debut in March at just 17 in a 1-0 loss to Middlesbrough. Becomes youngest ever Socceroos debutant against Chile at 17 years, seven months
2000 - Voted English Premier League Young Player of the Year by his peers ahead of Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane. Along with fellow Socceroos striker Mark Viduka, helps Leeds to third place in the EPL
2001 - Part of Leeds's fairy-tale run to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals
2003 - Moves amid acrimony to Liverpool for £5 million, with Kewell and agent Bernie Mandic accused of "stabbing Leeds fans in the back" by the Leeds chairman
2005 - Becomes first Australian to win the UEFA Champions League but limps out of Liverpool's final victory after just 22 minutes. Scores penalty in a World Cup qualifier against Uruguay to help the Socceroos reach the World Cup for the first time in 32 years
2006 - Wins the FA Cup with Liverpool despite coming off in the final against West Ham with a groin injury. Scores crucial late goal in a World Cup group match against Croatia to help secure passage to the second stage. Misses the 1-0 last-16 loss to eventual champion Italy with a left foot injury
2007 - Makes only three appearances in the whole season for Liverpool because of injury but comes off the bench in the 2-1 Champions League final loss to AC Milan
2008 - Moves to Galatasaray and enjoys most prolific scoring form of his career
2010 - Plays just 24 minutes at the 2010 World Cup after being sent off for hand-ball in a 1-1 draw against Ghana
2011 - Enjoys his best international tournament at the 2011 Asian Cup, starting every game and scoring in the quarter- and semi-finals before Australia lost the final 1-0 to Japan. Ends speculation by signing for A-League giant Melbourne Victory on a three-year contract but plays just one season before returning to the UK, citing an illness to his wife's mother
2012 - Named Australia's greatest ever player by FFA
2013 - After two seasons largely out of football - playing just three games for Qatari side Al-Gharafa - Kewell returns to Melbourne to captain Victory's cross-town rival Heart
2014 - Yet another injury-prone season with Kewell announcing his retirement at 35 years of age, just weeks before the 2014 World Cup.