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Kevin Muscat Interview

Love him or hate him...


images MIKE BAKER + GETTY IMAGES

ver you cat Whate Mus Kevin stralian f think o on of Au as a n ic he is a After retiring ason, + What do you consider to be ll. se the highlight of your career? footba of last urful lo he end Its a difficult question. Ive enjoyed yer at t ck on his co pla so many things along the way. ba s ita Lifetime friends Ive made, clubs Ive he look eer with Bon ks car played at, but all in all, the one that nd pee ades a sticks in my mind is most probably the Mersi is future World Cup qualifier against Uruguay in th a
2001. A number of things came together that made it memorable for me personally: it was a World Cup qualifier; it was in Melbourne, my family and friends were there; in fact, anyone who had made a contribution to my career was there; and I scored the penalty for the 1-0 result. It was a massive high. It gave me an opportunity to say thank you in a way that players can only dream of. There are other highlights. Getting all the way to the FA Cup Final, winning promotion to the Premier League with [Crystal] Palace, and also captaining my country.

EVIN MUSCAT played his 530th game of top level professional club football in Melbourne Victorys 1-1 draw against Jeju United in Korea in May. There were just 1,519 people in the crowd to see the final group match of Victorys disappointing 2011 Asian Champions League campaign in May. Muscat himself is struggling to let go. Soon after the Victorys exit the 37-year-old signed up for Victorian State League team Sunshine George Cross, the club where he started out. Muscat played his first professional match for the club, a little over 21 years earlier, aged just 16, when he was named in the starting line-up against Adelaide City in the National Soccer League before 4,711 people at Hindmarsh Stadium. Adelaide City, featuring some of the biggest names in Australian soccer Robert Zabica, Alex Tobin, Milan Ivanovic, Sergio Melta, the Vidmar brothers and Carl Veart won that game 4-1. It was the beginning of a rough-and-tumble career. With a reputation as a fearless and to some, reckless defender, Musky epitomised the fire in the belly of Australian footballers as much as anybody who has worn the Green and Gold over the past few decades. Now looking forward to a coaching role with Melbourne Victory, Muscat reflects on his past and looks to what might come next. One thing is for sure. Youd prefer to be with him than against him.

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+ How did it feel going from that high against Uruguay in Melbourne to the very disappointing defeat in Montevideo five days later? [Australia lost 3-1 and missed out on the 2002 World Cup] It was a massive, massive disappointment. Again, another World Cup campaign failed. Ultimately, a result like that is pretty hard to take. A few players retired after that which made it even worse but, you know, theyre the breaks you get in football. + What else was disappointing in your career? I look back and there really are not too many. I think the biggest one would be missing out on the squad for the 2006 World Cup. I was involved in every leadup game beforehand but then when Guus Hiddink arrived, I was out of it. I admit I was hurt because, like any player does, I really thought I was still good enough to make that squad. But for one reason or another, I wasnt selected. Thats life, and its certainly life in football. One coach can always think differently to the next and you just have to take it. It doesnt mean you like it. + If you thought you were good enough to be in the squad, who do you think shouldnt have been in it? I have my opinion just as others have theirs. I just feel very strongly I was certainly good enough to make that squad. But, in the eyes of the person who mattered, I wasnt and thats how it goes down in history. + Can I take you back to some of the other

highlights, such as qualifying for the FA Cup Final with Millwall in 2004. As a kid growing up in Australia, you must have had to pinch yourself that it was true. I think my earliest recollection of watching football on TV was the English game. I was only four or so when the National Soccer League started and it wasnt on TV for many years but there was always the English highlights and, of course, the FA Cup. Id played in all six rounds for Millwall but, unfortunately, was injured and couldnt play in the Final. It was a disappointment, but again, its just the nature of the beast. + What about Crystal Palaces promotion to the Premier League? When you first go over to England, you wonder whether youre good enough to play at that level, how youll settle, whether youll even like the country or where youre living. I went from the Atlanta Olympics to Crystal Palace and it was a baptism of fire. I played

The MUSCAT YeArS


1973 Born in England; arrives in Australia as a babe-in-arms 1989-1990 Sunshine George Cross (9 app, 0 goals) 1990-91 Australian Institute of Sport 1991-92 Heidelberg United (18 app, 0 goals) 1992-96 South Melbourne (73 app, 6 goals) 1996-97 Crystal Palace (53 app, 2 goals) 1997-2002 Wolverhampton Wanderers (180 app, 14 goals) 2002-2003 Rangers (22 app, 0 goals) 2003-2005 Millwall (53 app, 0 goals) 2005-2011 Melbourne Victory (122 app, 28 goals)

On the ball for Millwall 44 out of the 46 league games in the season, including the play-off final. I didnt have time to think about all the other factors that can affect your performance such as whether I felt settled or homesick because I just had to get on the pitch and play. I left to come home to Australia the morning after the play-off final with the promotion medal around my neck. + Who would you consider to be among your best friends in football? Ive really made many, many, friends; the majority Ive played with at various times in the national teams. Ive played in two World Youth Cup Finals, an Olympic Games and three World Cup campaigns so I have some very longstanding friends. But the ones who come to mind are Mehmet Durakovic, Steve Mautone, Tony Popovic, Zjelko Kalac, Craig Moore, of course, Aurelio and Tony Vidmar, Stan Lazaridis, Timmy Cahill at Millwall. Weve been through so many situations together I could keep going, to be honest. Whats good is to see everyone taking their own path in terms of what to do next and it looks like many of us will also cross paths as coaches. The best thing that can happen at this point in our football development is for players like us who have had significant careers to start being part of the future of the game off the field. + In a cast of stellar team-mates, who was the team-mate you most admired? Those who come to mind straight away are Paul Okon, Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarzer. Theyre all great players but at some stage they relied on me just as much as I relied on them to win a football game. At some stage in an individual game, or over the course of a career, you stand sideby-side with a team-mate and you rely on each other to get over the line. Thats what football is about. + Some of the developments in the offseason for Melbourne Victory have been some of the most encouraging in the past eight years. How does it feel to be working in a different capacity with people some of your former teammates, such as Durakovic, Mautone, and Francis Awaritefe? I think the fact that weve got history helps. Automatically, there is a level of trust and confidence in each other. Weve got ourselves a good group of people who wont all agree with each other but who will help create the best possible outcome. + What about the bust up in 1994 between you and Awaritefe after losing an NSL final to Melbourne Knights? Im not shying away from it. We were team-mates in a losing finals match. Frannie spoke his mind after the match about how the defenders played; tempers flared; it was nothing more. The story has tended to grow arms and legs over the years but were good mates. And Mark Viduka was on fire for Melbourne Knights that day! + How do you look back on the controversy surrounding your career? I dont feel comfortable about it. There are some things Ive done which are not memorable and that I dont rate, but I can say this as a player, Ive always lived on the edge. I can say hand on my heart that I have never intentionally gone in to a tackle to hurt someone; I have always gone for the ball. You always wish that a player like Matty Holmes hadnt been injured and I sincerely regret any player getting an injury. + Do you feel there is a tension between how you deal with a controversy and how others might see it? I always took the view that people sitting in the grandstands or on their leather couches are entitled to their opinion. I dont have an issue with that [but] I dont think they can actually tell what all the circumstances are leading up to a situation. Of course, theyre going to form a view about it or even

National teams
1991-93 Australia U-20 (9 app, 0 goals) 1992-96 Australia U-23 (15 app, 1 goal) 1994-2006 Australia (51 app, 10 goals)

There are some things Ive done that I dont rate, but Ive always lived on the edge. Hand on my heart, Ive never intentionally gone in to a tackle to hurt someone
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Kevin MUSCAT: iS ThAT ACCePTABLe?


Muskie had his share of run- ins with referees and opponents (and former Sydney FC coach John Kosmina) during his career. Here are the lowlights.
1988
Charlton Athletic player Matty Holmes requires four operations, a steel rod and leg and skin grafts to repair ankle damage following a Muscat tackle. Holmes received a settlement of approximately $600,000.

The biggest disappointment would be missing out on the 2006 World Cup. I was involved in every lead-up game but when Hiddink arrived, I was out of it. I was hurt
Muscat with his kids James and Olivia + You got on well with former youth coach and Socceroos assistant Les Scheinflug. Yes, I did. Hes still The Boss to me. I think, to date, his record is second to none. When he was coaching youth teams, they nearly always qualified and went past the group stage in World Cups. I know many railed against his discipline and his attitude but for young guys, in particular, its often what is needed. + What do you hope to achieve from this point as you move from playing into a coaching career? Im on a new path now and my attitude is to reach for the stars. Whatever you want to do in life, I think if you can get close to reaching your dreams, its going to be one hell of a journey. So my short-term goal is to be the best possible coach I can be. As I see it, I am serving an apprenticeship over the next two years with the opportunity to increase my knowledge; then Ill assess where Im up to and go from there. + How would you sum up the plans for Melbourne Victory this coming A-League season? Its exciting. Mehmet, Steve Mautone, Francis, and me represent a fresh and younger approach but we also have experience across the board with good local and international knowledge. We want to be a successful football team. We have players and a coaching team with ambition and we will have a crack at winning the competition this season.

1999
Norwich City striker Craig Bellamy sustains a broken leg following a Muscat tackle.

2001
Christophe Dugarry is sidelined for two months with knee ligament damage after a sliding tackle from Muscat during what was supposed to be a friendly between Australia and France.

2011
Melbourne Hearts Adrian Zahra sustained a serious knee injury requiring surgery after what TV commentators described as a sickening tackle from Kev. be guided into a view by commentators [but] I cant lose any sleep over that. I didnt go into football to make friends and be loved by everyone. I think if I had, I wouldnt have had such a long career or been selected in national teams. + You debuted with the NSL as a 16 year old and you were named a Rising Star by FIFA in two consecutive World Youth Cups . . . I look at the players I grew up with, many of whom are far more talented than me, and I look at the career Ive had. Maybe I might have had an opportunity here or an opportunity there, but when I look at the fact that Ive played in two World Youth Cups, an Olympics, World Cup campaigns, captained my country at different levels, had a 21year professional career including 12 years in the UK and gone all the way to an FA Cup Final, Im pleased. If anything, I think Ive over-achieved rather than under-achieved.

A slight difference of opinion with John Kosmina