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A lot will be written about Kewell coming to Melbourne Victory. On the forum the reaction is overwhelmingly positive. From ecstatic and over-optimistic “It will revolutionise football, Melbourne Victory will become bigger than the AFL etc” to the more realistic welcome, and let’s hope it works out. There are also some negative comments though. Apart from the impression that Kewell, and especially his agent were ‘money hungry’ (although it appears that the delay in signing Kewell was due to contractual issues) there is a sense that we have gone for the celebrity signing, and that perhaps, Melbourne may regret it. That perhaps the money should have been spent on some other less famous player but which was fitter and younger.
But for me the advantage of signing Kewell is not primarily of him assisting or kicking goals (which I hope he does, because that is what he is paid for) but it is a bit like Cadel Evans, where I bet that many people still don’t know any other bicycle rider beside him, but his success has given a boost to cycling.
The same will happen with Kewell. His fame will help the team, and the sport to cut through the very competitive Melbourne sport market, which is dominated by the AFL. I know that for the footbal true believers the fact that people who never heard of a corner kick before start asking us about Kewell and so on, and that it looks like all of a sudden there appears to be an increase in membership enquiries which we can term ‘bandwagoners’.
True, we can ask why people may be interested in following Melbourne Victory now, just because probably the most famous Australian player is in the team. Where were these fans before? Why didn’t come on board earlier? Are they attracted by the sport in itself of just because they may know who Kewell is?
There is the risk that many of these ‘new fans’ will abandon the team once the novelty has worn off, but perhaps some will start to like the game and become permanent fans. Today’s bandwagoner may become tomorrow’s committed fan. Probably not the majority, but even if a proportion do stay, it’s worth it.
And as I said before, the media who often is indifferent, and in some cases hostile to football may increase the coverage of the sport and the team, and while we may ask again, why didn’t you cover us before? Any increase of media interest should be welcomed.
So I really hope that Kewell will succeed in the team. That the fans, even those who are at the moment unconvinced about his value, will warm to him and that his stint at Melbourne Victory will provide the happy ending to his playing careers that he certainly deserves.