February 22, 2020
TIM CAHILL FROM OZ TO AL KASS
It has been a long road travelled for Tim Cahill, in a professional football career that spanned five countries, seven clubs and more than 20 years.
His playing days may have drawn to a close, but his involvement in the sport he loves has taken a new direction via an ambassadorial role for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
The Australian legend has also embarked on gaining his UEFA coaching badges and, for the past week or more, the youngsters of Aspire Academy have benefitted from Cahill’s warmth, wisdom and will to win, after he took up an offer to be part of the local team’s coaching staff for Al Kass 2020.
Aspire’s progress in the tournament was cruelly curtailed on Wednesday evening, after losing their quarter-final clash against Inter Milan 1-0 despite dominating the game for long periods. But Cahill is in no doubt that his charges will emerge stronger for the experience.
“I’m proud because we showed our style and put our presence in the game and pushed them in the end,” he reflected.
“Aspire Academy has a lot of talents, and now it’s about making sure we keep growing this talent and nurturing it and giving more for the future.
The team is really upset, but it’s a really good reaction because you can see how much this means to them as a collective group. We will work to help them create more chances, and we will take a lot of positives from this tournament.”
Watching over the talented Under-16s, Cahill may well have reflected on his own formative years in the game back in Australia. One of his former coaches, John Doyle, recalled: “I was coaching Tim’s older brothers and, as a five-year-old, he would come to watch them and join in wherever possible. At this young age, he was already very competitive, keen to learn and tried to emulate his brothers.
Remarkably, in the early years he wasn’t recognised for representative honours, but as a 16-year-old with Sydney United he was given his chance.
“Although he was still learning different runs, he was hard to dispossess, displayed great athleticism and had already developed the art of jumping high, despite having to improve his body work and timing required in winning the ball in the air.”
Cahill’s progress at the semi-professional Sydney United was so rapid that by the age of 18 he had made his debut for Millwall, who were then in the third tier of English football. He spent six years with the South East London side, winning a Second Division title in 2001 and reaching the FA Cup Final in 2004.
Despite finishing on the losing side, Cahill’s career was blossoming, and that summer he joined Premier League side Everton for what turned out to be a bargain fee of £1.5m. By now, he had developed a fearsome reputation as a highly competitive attacking midfielder, and the Australian became a ‘True Blue’ legend at Goodison Park. In 2006, he became the first Everton player in 18 years to make it onto the top-50 shortlist for the Ballon D’Or.
Cahill left the Blues in 2012, having plundered 68 goals in 278 appearances. Bidding farewell, he said: “I want to thank everyone at Everton, from the club to tremendous supporters. It has been a privilege to be an Everton player for the past eight years, and it was a very difficult decision to leave. I will always support Everton, and I wish the club the best of luck in the future.”
Cahill’s next stop on his globe-traversing journey was the US, where for three years he plied his trade with the New York Red Bulls, winning the Major League Soccer Supporters’ Shield in 2013. China soon followed, with Cahill spending 2015 with Shanghai Shenhua before a short spell with Hangzhou Greentown ended in the summer of 2016.
Things went full circle when he returned to his homeland to play for Melbourne City, before a nostalgic - and brief - return to Millwall in January 2018.
Cahill’s 21 years as a footballer culminated in the Indian Super League with Jamshedpur, for whom he scored twice in 11 games before hanging up his boots last spring.
If Cahill’s club career was outstanding, his achievements in the green and gold of his country were perhaps even more remarkable. Making his debut for the Socceroos in 2004, Cahill went on to earn 108 caps and score 50 international goals – a national record which cemented his position as one of Australia’s greatest ever sportsmen.
He played in four World Cups between 2006 and 2018, becoming the first player to score for his home country in a finals tournament.
Arguably, his personal highlight came in the 2014 finals in Brazil when he fired home a brilliant volley in a 3-2 loss to The Netherlands.
Cahill’s storied international career included four appearances against Qatar, scoring a couple of goals along the way. The nation’s football-loving residents are likely to be seeing much more of him in the months and years ahead, as he represents Qatar on the world stage as an official ambassador for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy.
“It’s the biggest tournament ever to come to the Middle East,” Cahill enthused. “To hold this tournament and to share it with the world – and to be in a place where it’s never been done before – that’s what football does. Football is giving back to this region, but at the same time sharing its culture, values and lifestyle.”
The Australian legend is not only an official ambassador for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022; he is also a wonderful advertisement for the global game, and his story will doubtless prove inspirational for the Qatari kids he is now coaching. From Oz to Al Kass, it has been quite the journey for the Sydney superstar.