FIFA 23 Interview: We Chatted With Socceroos Legend Harry Kewell About Returning As A Hero In FIFA Ultimate Team

The Wizard of Aus returns to FIFA after almost a decade

It’s official, one of Australia’s greatest Socceroos is coming back to FIFA. FIFA 23 will bring Harry Kewell back in the form of a hero card in FIFA Ultimate Team, which are designed to celebrate cult heroes who made a major impact in the real game.

I was able to sit down (virtually) with the man himself and chat about his return to FIFA, his current managerial role at Celtic and what he’s expecting from the upcoming season of the beautiful game.

How’s it feel to return to FIFA as a playable character? You’ve been away for around eight years now!

Harry Kewell: It feels great and yes, you’re right – I’ve been out of the game for a while. I used to play it, too. You always used to see your stats and they did cause a lot of problems with the players. I mean, you’d hear “you’re never as quick as that – I’m quicker than you! Well, I can do this, I can do that…” So you’re always fighting to see who has the best stats.

But they always made me decent enough in the FIFA games. I’d have to say that even when I was younger, I used to be a big gamer and I liked playing it. I’ll put it out there – I would play myself and I’d make me the star man. I would control it all and I’d try and do everything like I did in games anyway, because I always wanted the ball.

Being out of the game and now being able to be back in it again, it shows the support that FIFA has given me, to bring me back now as a special character – as a hero – it’s lovely. It’s a great feeling. 

What’s the process been like? Did the team get you to do anything funky while bringing you back into the game? 

Harry Kewell: Well, in this world we live in now they can make [in-game characters] pretty identical to what you actually look like. I’ve been on a strict diet now, as you can clearly see [laughs]. The great thing is that they concentrated on what I felt I was very good at in the game, which was my passing ability. I could do a lot with the ball. I could control a lot of things when I had the ball at my feet. And I think that’s what they’ve captured in it – is the fact that when you play me as a hero, I can do some pretty cool stuff.

FIFA 23 Harry Kewell

It must be a nice feeling to know that you’re being effectively immortalised now? Hero cards, legend cards… they’re there for a reason. You made a massive impact on the game. It’s the best way EA Sports can really reward you, right?

Harry Kewell: It is. Because we’re competitors and we are footballers, and some of us always look to keep going, going, going. Sometimes we forget about what we’ve done. Do we all have the perfect career? No, we don’t. We always have moments where we go “we could have done that better” or “if only I didn’t have this” or “if only I had that”. Sometimes you can remember that and kind of forget the good moments. 

There are only a few really good moments out there. And so it’s nice that FIFA have looked at it and gone, “well, no, he was a big part of football.” Especially going overseas at a young age from Australia and coming over to England to compete at the highest level. To be able to sit here now and, like I said, to be part of it. My son plays it, too – I would play every now and then and he would beat me [laughs]! Now he’s 21…  and he can turn and say, “look, that’s my dad.”

Like I said, it’s a nice touch. It’s not a little thing, it’s a huge thing. But for me, it’s something that I can go back and go, wow, well yeah, I did do alright in the game of football.

Have they told you what your rating is yet? Or is that still kept under wraps?

Harry Kewell: No, they haven’t. It’s still under wraps but I’m sure it’s 99.

You said you played FIFA before, back in the day – who’s your go-to team?

Harry Kewell: Back in the day you would usually play national teams, right? That’s what I would play. You’d always play the Brazil team, because they had Ronaldo and he was unbelievable. I used to like AC Milan but obviously I used to always play as Liverpool.

So I’d play as Liverpool and Leeds back in the day, because I enjoyed them. I never really played too many other English teams. And then even in today’s games, I know that there’s a lot of quality players out there. But I think you can’t really go wrong if you pick Liverpool because they’re quite powerful in all areas. So I think that’s the team that I usually go for. 

I hate to say it, but my son’s a Chelsea fan… so he always picks them. So that’s why we have that little bit of rivalry.

FIFA 23 Harry Kewell
Harry Kewell won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool in 2005.

That must hurt a little bit to know that he supports a different team than the one you played for?

Harry Kewell: Well, he’s got four uncles and three of them are Chelsea fans. So when I was playing and because he was only young, he never actually came out to watch. Then when I wasn’t concentrating, they got into him and they got him all the jerseys and everything. Before I realized, I looked at him and he was walking around with a Chelsea jersey on! And then it’s just kept. But we have some good banter about it.

What other Socceroos would you like to see make their way into future games as heroes or legends? Who else do you think should be there?

Harry Kewell: There’s so many, but I’m not going to lie because he’s one of the best players that I have played with. Not only for my club, but for my country – it’s always [Mark] Viduka. 

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I think he would be sensational. You could have fun creating his character as well, because he was one of the strongest players that I played with. As far as you see a lot of strikers now, they can handle one center half whereas he could handle two. This allowed me to do a lot of my work around him. 

For a big guy that could handle two defenders, he was very light on his feet, as well. He was a fantastic player.

You’re a first team coach now at Celtic, of course, with Ange [Postecoglou]. How’s it feel to be reunited with an Aussie? 

Harry Kewell: You know what? Even though we’re Aussies, I don’t want to think about it like that. Because I want to think that he’s brought me there to help me become a better coach and I don’t want to learn off an Aussie – I want to learn off of a great manager. He’s Australia’s greatest manager, I think, right? And he’s starting to edge his way into being a great European manager. That’s what I’m there to learn. 

To have an input, too. It’s nice. Whether that’s accepted or not… that’s totally different. But you’ve got to be able to throw yourself out there and expect that you’re not always going to be right. You’re going to expect that you’re going to get challenged. I’ve always liked that as a player and as a coach. I would always throw questions out to my staff and I’d always throw questions out to my coaches. Whether I’m right or wrong, I would argue the point. As long as you can argue, it’s fine.

FIFA 23 Harry Kewell
Harry joined Celtic as a first team coach earlier this year.

You managed in England for a few years and now you’re at Celtic. Obviously a massive, massive club – very, very passionate fans. They’re all about their results. How’s it been?

Harry Kewell: I think it’s hard to compare [the two different types of atmospheres] because they’re both unbelievable in their own ways. 

When we turned up for the first game against Aberdeen… I’ve never seen this as I’ve never been part of a team that’s won the title before, but they make this long pathway where all the fans are down and they had all the flares and all the flags out, and everyone’s singing. The captain comes out and the manager walks out. Then you see all the team walking out and everyone’s singing. That was the opening game of season and even I was like, “wow, this is cool!” 

I’m used to it, but I’ve been away from it [for some time]. And I’m just like, damn. It’s great because as a player I probably would have been headphones in, focusing on the game and not really paying attention to it. Whereas now, I could just stick a cap on and go “yeah, this is awesome.”

You’ve taken this opportunity to progress your career, as well. In the long run, where do you hope this step takes you?

Harry Kewell: You know what? I would love to say, oh no, this is what I want. But I’m just going to enjoy the moment.

I want to learn as much as I can. And I’ve already learned three or four valuable things that I would do if I get an opportunity [to manage] again. The one thing that I’ve got to understand is I love coaching. I’ve said this even when I was the manager. I said, “my office is not an office – my office is my pitch.” That’s why I love my work, and I could stay there from eight o’clock till five o’clock at night, or 10 o’clock at night. That’s what I love. 

I could just sit there for hours, speaking to players, showing them [things], working on things. That’s what I love doing. So I want to enjoy this because the facilities are fantastic up here.

Alright, time for predictions! Who’s winning the Premier League this year?

Harry Kewell: Manchester City. I hate to say it. I hate to say it.

Best signing of the off-season?

Harry Kewell: [Erling] Haaland.

Who are you tipping to win the Champions League?

Harry Kewell: I’m going to say Liverpool. I just looked at Trent [Alexander-Arnold] the other day and he’s played in three European cup finals already. They’ve got just something. Klopp’s just got something.

Who do you think wins the World Cup this year? 

Harry Kewell: I’m going to get a lot of stick for this, but I actually think England’s got a great chance. I just think about what they’ve done and what Gareth Southgate’s done over the past few tournaments and how it’s gotten better and better. You know? They’ve got the players.

How do you feel the Socceroos will go at the World Cup? 

Harry Kewell: I want them to enjoy it. I think it’s going to be tough, I’m not going to lie. We are going through a different phase at the moment, and I feel for them because everyone’s always comparing them to the last World Cup [team] and the World Cup [team] before that. The boys should just go out there and enjoy it. You never know what’s going to happen. They’ll work hard and that’s all you could ever ask of a team. 

FIFA 23 will launch on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series consoles, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on September 30, 2022.