END OF AN ERA: Harry Kewell speaks to the media in Melbourne yesterday after announcing his retirement.
END OF AN ERA: Harry Kewell speaks to the media in Melbourne yesterday after announcing his retirement. GETTY IMAGES

Harry Kewell calls it a day

FOOTBALL: Harry Kewell has announced he will retire from the game on his own terms next month.

Despite battling head and ankle injuries for large chunks of this A-League season, the Melbourne Heart skipper has shown glimpses of the form that saw him voted Australia's best ever player in 2012.

Kewell was left out of Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou's squad for a friendly against Ecuador last month, with the new national coach saying the attacking midfielder's lack of game time had forced his decision.

Many saw that as being the writing on the wall for a football legend, who made his debut for then-English Premier League side Leeds and Australia as a 17-year-old back in 1996.

Now 35, Kewell made his retirement announcement with dignity in front of a packed press gallery, as well as his Heart teammates who all showed up to honour him.

"This has been on my mind for a long time. When I left the Victory I had that year out. But I didn't want it to end like that," said Kewell, who was forced to leave the Melbourne-based franchise in 2012 to be close to the mother of his wife, Sheree, who was ill in England at the time.

"The Heart gave me a wonderful opportunity to come back here.

"I wasn't thinking at that time (leaving the Victory) that I was going to retire. I wanted to continue."

As things have panned out, Kewell said he felt now was the right time to call it quits, saying his last game would be in the final A-League round of the 2013/14 season against Western Sydney Wanderers at AAMI Park on April 12.

"The body feels great, but I wanted to be able to finish where I could still do things outside of football, like skiing," he said.

He also plans to stay involved in the game, announcing he would turn his attention to developing Australia's best talent, among other things.

"I'm excited about my academy," he said.

"It's a new adventure where I can put back something into Australian football, where I'm very proud and I believe in it.

"It gives me a chance to work with a lot of Australians, where I can teach them the way I was taught football."

Kewell, who said his goal against Croatia that put Australia through to the second round of the 2006 World Cup was the highlight of his games for the Socceroos, will also tell his story in a book, and will pursue another passion - public speaking.

"I've lived a life, and now I get to live another," he said.

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