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By ESPN Staff

Under-fire Kewell defends move to Galatasaray

New Galatasaray signing Harry Kewell has defended his move to Istanbul, stressing it is not disrespectful to the two Leeds fans who were killed in the city eight years ago.

On Saturday the former Liverpool winger's transfer to the Turkish club was confirmed, sparking criticism that he should have considered the deaths of Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight prior to their UEFA Cup semi-final with Galatasaray in 2000.

However, the Australia international has issued an open letter to Leeds fans insisting he has not been disrespectful.

'My love and respect for Leeds United and what the club has done for me will never change, no matter what anyone says about me and whatever their motives are,' said the letter, sent to Sky Sports.

'My sense of sorrow and sympathy for the families and friends of Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight will always be with me.

'I chose the number 19 shirt when I signed for Galatasaray as a sign of respect for Leeds because that was the number I got when I first became a regular member of the Leeds starting XI.

'I felt that it might be a way to demonstrate that I had not forgotten where it all started and I was hoping that in a small way it would help the healing process of the tragedy that occurred on the April 5 2000.

'For me, sport should first and foremost be about the love of your game. But equally important is the respect for not only your team-mates but all those who you compete against.

'For this reason I have always objected to any form of discrimination in any sport and football in particular, as that is the sport that is the most near and dear to me.

'To blame the Galatasaray club for the tragedy in Istanbul is simply wrong and discriminatory.'

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