When Liverpool arrive in Istanbul in readiness for their Champions League Final, Reds winger Harry Kewell will be reminded of what he calls the lowest point of his career.
Kewell was a Leeds player back in 2000 when two of their supporters were stabbed to death in Istanbul. As we’ve already reported today, some authorities are concerned about this history when Liverpool fans arrive on Wednesday, although Turkish officials feel that there will be a welcome for Reds fans this week.
The Leeds fans were killed after fighting had taken place in Taksim Square the night before Leeds’ UEFA Cup semi-final against Galatasaray.
Speaking to the Sunday People, Kewell said: "What happened in Istanbul when I was with Leeds was the lowest point of my career. Two supporters died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was a terrible tragedy and something I would hate to go through ever again."
Clear Kewell was moved by what happened back then, but hopes he can put it out of his mind once he’s on the pitch: "I will try and put the past behind me when I return to Turkey, but I am sure I will think about the two fans that died and all the bad memories of that time. I know I can never forget that night. I always think of it whenever I see English teams playing abroad."
Like Turkish authorities, Kewell doesn’t feel there’ll be any need for Reds fans to be worried. However he does add a note of caution: "I don’t think that Liverpool fans should be fearful because I would hope that this is a different time and a different game, but I would ask them to be careful."
Kewell continues: "I remember walking out onto the pitch to play Galatasaray and there were riot police shielding us from missiles that were being thrown. That kind of thing is all part of playing football in Turkey and thankfully it will be an English team facing an Italian team on Wednesday night."
Kewell remembers feeling that the events of the night before should have meant the game wasn’t played – but it was: "It wasn’t that we were scared of playing Galatasaray, but I was one of those who felt that the tie should not have gone ahead as a mark of respect to the two supporters. The best thing we could have done was go out there and win for them, but it was very hard to put what had happened to the back of our minds."
Kewell says the trauma had a negative effect on how he and his team-mates played: "David O’Leary urged us to concentrate but it was really tough. I think we were capable of beating Galatasaray and winning the UEFA Cup that year, but once the tragedy happened we never had a chance."
Looking forward to the final, Kewell shares the optimism being shown by Liverpool ahead of the game: "This is probably the biggest game of everybody’s career, but it’s a game we can win. It’s going to be very tough because Milan are a top team, but if we go there with the positive attitude that we have shown in the Champions League then we can win. People said we wouldn’t beat Juventus or Chelsea, but we did. "
Kewell is hoping to end a season of problems for himself on a high: "It has been a disappointing season for me personally because of the injuries. Yet if you had told me at the start that I would get the chance to play in two big cup finals I would have taken it."