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May 13, 2013

Kevin Sheedy sticks by A-League comments

Greater Western Sydney coach Kevin Sheedy says he meant nothing untoward by Sunday's comments in which he described Western Sydney Wanderers' A-League success as getting a leg-up from the "immigration department".

While pondering the crowd of just 5830 that turned up to see the Giants against Adelaide, the lowest at a regular-season AFL match since Fitzroy's final year of existence in 1996, Sheedy suggested soccer in Sydney had a distinct advantage.

"We don't have the recruiting officer called the immigration department, recruiting fans for Western Sydney Wanderers. We don't have that on our side," he said.

His comments triggered a Twitter backlash.

Sheedy was branded a "muppet" by Wellington Phoenix's Sydney-born captain Andrew Durante, labelled a disgrace by soccer pundit Craig Foster and plenty worse by a plethora of fans.

It came just over two weeks after Sheedy met with the immigration department in Canberra, discussing the concept of his side's round-19 clash with Melbourne becoming an iconic game to celebrate diversity.

Sheedy, an anti-racism campaigner who has worked to improve indigenous-player pathways in his 29-year coaching career, on Monday stuck by his comments while looking to add context and perspective.

"No, no, no. Not at all (do I wish I didn't say that). It's a throwaway line to make sure that everybody understands that is why soccer can get such a quick crowd," Sheedy said in Sydney.

"And of course, quite amazingly why it's taken so long to put another (A-League) team in the west, because they've got an enormous fan base there.

"... When I said the immigration department was one of the best recruiting agencies for soccer, well I didn't mean anything untoward by that. But it's a fact."

In a wide-ranging press conference that covered the plight of indigenous Australians and the nation's immigration policy, Sheedy talked of the barriers he felt he'd broken down regarding sport and race - adding that: "I don't think indigenous people would call me a racist".

The 65-year-old suggested he was thick-skinned enough to cope with the abuse that has been directed his way on social media.

"Racist is a pretty broad term. But people have their opinions," the four-time premiership coach said.

"Our job is to get out there and get on the front foot, withstanding - not to hurt anyone's feelings.

"But I think people just get a bit touchy on certain things, and I'm not touchy in that area at all."

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