Tim Cahill will forever be a part of Australia’s football narrative having been a headline-member of the generation which lifted the green and gold to unprecedented heights. Seven years ago in Germany, the Sydney-born Cahill scored Australia’s first-ever FIFA World Cup™ goal with his double also lifting the Socceroos to their maiden win on the world stage. Four years later in South Africa he became the only Australian to score in two FIFA World Cups.
Cahill has long had a happy knack of scoring crucial goals, many with his head, and now sits just one shy of equalling the Socceroos’ all-time record. Despite being told as a teenager he was too short for top level football, Cahill boasts remarkable heading ability and Oman’s experienced French coach Paul Le Guen recently described Cahill as "one of the best in the world in the air".
At club level Cahill enjoyed a prosperous eight-year career at Everton, where he was held in high regard by the Goodison Park faithful. Last year, the 33-year-old embarked on a new chapter in his career by signing with MLS club New York Red Bulls.
FIFA.com recently sat down with Cahill to talk about his new life in the Big Apple, English Premier League experiences, his star-studded international career and Australia’s 2014 FIFA World Cup hopes. Cahill also opened up about giving back to the game and how his Samoan heritage shaped him as a person.
FIFA.com: How are you enjoying your new career in New York? Tim Cahill: It is a great opportunity at this stage in my career to sign for a long period in the MLS and be part of a big football team. The lifestyle is amazing, the football is great and also the fans, so it is just about enjoying it which I have been.
*Did the chance to contribute to one of the world’s newer and fast-developing leagues also hold some attraction? *Definitely. [It is good] To be part of the MLS revolution with the players that are going there... it is a pretty good standard. It is a different stage in my career, after 15 or so years at a high level in England. In this league you have to play well, be fit and do the right things on and off the park. Internationally, too, it is a good move as we don’t play so many games as in Europe and the scheduling works better.
*How is it living in a city like New York? *It is nice, but I don’t think I was drawn by the bright lights and never have been. You have players like Juninho and Thierry Henry and with the stature of players they are signing, it [the move] was a no-brainer for me. It is nice to help develop the team, the club and the league, and also to be respected on a different side of the world.
*Was it a wrench to leave Everton after so long? *I’m lucky to have a great relationship with [Everton manager] David Moyes, the chairman and also the fans. I think I left Everton on a high, a massive high. They were in a good place where they could kick on regardless of me leaving or not. I think I didn’t jump ship when the time was bad. I left at a time when the ship was steady. Do I miss the Premier League and Everton? Yes and no. I had eight amazing years at such a great club. The level of football is different but when you go to a different league and be part of a different project, you have to embrace everything.
I still get the same feeling as when I first played for my country.
*On the international front, how do you think the regeneration of the Socceroo team is shaping up? *I think it is fantastic. What Holger is trying to do is incorporate new players over a period over time. You have to slowly put the ingredients together and make sure that you don’t push things too quickly. We are at a stage now where the ability and stature of the boys is fantastic. It is great to be one of the older players that guides and leads. It is a different aspect but one that is really enjoyable. To see these kids help the team and push us for spots I couldn’t be happier.
*Now that you are in an advanced part of your career, do you appreciate playing for your country even more? *No, there is no difference. My passion for Australia has been strong from the very first day. I have always cherished the green and gold jersey and I have shown that in every camp. I still get the same feeling as when I first played for my country. Being an older player, it is about helping and being available for advice.
*With a prominent place in Australia’s football history, do you ever stop and reflect about some of those key moments? *I always think about re-enacting those important moments again, and what it might in terms of getting Australia to another World Cup. It is fantastic to relive the moments, but it is more about now and making the difference. Whether it’s me or someone else making the final pass or scoring the goal is irrelevant. It is just about winning.
The impression that you leave on or off the pitch with the people that you interact with is something that you leave behind forever.
*How important is your Samoan heritage to you? *That is where my mum is from and where I was brought up for a little bit. The culture and tradition side is important because of the values. The values of respect to your elders, to anyone your around and basically to be humble. Sharing and being polite, just little things. As much as a great footballer you might be, the impression that you leave on or off the pitch with the people that you interact with is something that you leave behind forever. That is something I have learnt from my culture, not to forget where I came from and I won’t. To always know that you are equal with everyone. I am in a privileged position and something I have never taken advantage of for my own personal gain. Tradition, culture and heritage of Samoa is probably the strongest factor in what has made me.
*And giving back to the game seems to be something that is important to you… *For me charity and giving back to the right causes is important. You get to see a part of everyday life that is probably more relevant than what I do. Perspective is important. Charities and other things I do is a natural thing for me. It puts the right messages out and making the right impact is something I‘m all for.
*Finally, are the legs still feeling strong at 33? *Yes, I play every game I’m picked in. You have to look after your body and the move to the MLS is a smart one. I’m not playing two games a week like in Europe. To play in another World Cup... the move has definitely been the right one for me.