Selfless veteran takes pressure off Roar boss
FAHID Ben Khalfallah saved John Aloisi a tough decision by telling the Brisbane Roar coach to sign someone else rather than offer him a new contract.
The France-born 35-year-old former Tunisia international announced his retirement after the Roar's 2-0 elimination final loss to Melbourne City at AAMI Park at the weekend.
While it wasn't the result he had hoped for in his 100th A-League match, Ben Khalfallah was happy to hang up his boots after a 17-year professional career that also included stints at Melbourne Victory and French clubs Troyes, Bordeaux, Valenciennes, Caen, Angers, Laval and Amiens.
"I always wanted to make the decision myself, I didn't want someone to make the decision for me," the attacking midfielder said.
Ben Khalfallah revealed he had initial talks with Aloisi and had been happy for the Roar mentor to determine his future because "I always respect the coach's decision".
But then Ben Khalfallah went back to Aloisi to tell him he was going to retire from football.
"I said I want to stop," he said.
"There's one thing when you're used to playing at the highest level, you don't want to be just like a normal player.
"I don't want to be like someone just in the squad, who plays like five games and then on the bench for 10 games.
"I didn't want to finish my career like that. I can see I'm not the same player and I won't accept being just a squad player.
"I told John that if I was in charge of the recruitment, I would tell him to go with someone else … someone younger, for the quality and for the league."
Ben Khalfallah said the main regret about his one season with the Roar was thinking what might have been had injuries and off-field dramas not ravaged Brisbane's campaign.
"We will never know what we could have done during the season. I'm 100% sure that with everyone, we would have competed for the title," he said.
"Our squad was strong and we have amazing coaches. The atmosphere within the club has been amazing. Despite everything we've been through, we still made the finals."
Ben Khalfallah will stay in Australia but is yet to decide whether he and his family remain in Brisbane or return to Melbourne, where he still owns a house.
What is certain is that he will stay involved with football.
"If I was in France, I wouldn't stay in football … but in Australia there are so many things to do, football is growing up," said Ben Khalfallah, who is sitting for his coaching badges.
"Playing as a professional for 17 years is one thing, but being a coach, it's a different job.
"I know I have to learn with young players as an assistant coach. It's going to take a couple of years and hopefully one day I'll be ready to take an A-League club."