Exclusive: It's going to be a different Fifa World Cup in Qatar, says Tim Cahill

Australian football legend Tim Cahill finished his career with four World Cup appearances and five goals


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Australian sports icons Brett Lee (right) and Tim Cahill at the Galadari headquarters in Dubai on Monday. (Photo by Rahul Gajjar)
Australian sports icons Brett Lee (right) and Tim Cahill at the Galadari headquarters in Dubai on Monday. (Photo by Rahul Gajjar)

Published: Mon 10 Oct 2022, 9:22 PM

A midfielder of immense character and skills, Tim Cahill was the linchpin of the Everton team that regularly gave the English Premier League giants a run for their money in the first decade of the new millennium.

But it was in the Australian colours that Cahill waltzed into the history books, becoming the first player from his country to score a goal at the World Cup.

For the record, Cahill finished his career with four World Cup appearances and five goals, most by an Australian footballer in the world's greatest tournament.

But what could never be found in the cold record books is the legacy Cahill left behind.

Alongside two other great Australian footballers of his time, Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka, Cahill sparked a football revolution Down Under by ending Australia's 32-year wait for a World Cup appearance in 2006.

Australia have never failed to qualify for the World Cup since then.

During an exclusive interview with the Khaleej Times at the Galadari headquarters in Dubai on Monday, Cahill hoped that Australia would go at least one step further in Qatar than the golden generation did when they famously reached the second round in 2006.

Q. What is it like to represent your country at the World Cup?

I think for me it was everything because in 2006 we qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 32 years. So to do it and have that feeling, I can't really put into words. When you hear the national anthem at the World Cup you realise how emotional it is. I knew the foundation, the legacy that I was setting. Playing in the World Cup, is about moments. It's the defining moments, where you become the first-ever goal-scorer for Australia in a World Cup, it was something I took for granted. Now when I look back, I think, 'wow, I achieved something that was massive'.

Q. You played in four World Cups. But the first one in 2006 must have been the most special. After all, Australia qualified after a gap of 32 years...

I would have loved to lift the World Cup but for Australia just qualifying for the World Cup is like winning it. So yes, qualifying for the World Cup after 32 years was the start of changing the game (in Australia). It was the time when football came out of the shadows. That was the beginning and now we have qualified for the World Cup for the fifth straight time. I was a part of that start.

Q. Now you are an ambassador for the Qatar World Cup. What does that role mean to you?

My role is about educating people about how amazing this region is. The World Cup creates excitement in the region and it opens up hospitality and tourism. Also, it's going to be a different World Cup, it's going to be more compact — eight stadiums across 70 miles. Players will love it because in other World Cups, you sometimes fly five hours after a game. It will be an amazing experience for the fans too as there will be two or three matches in a day. As for Australia, I hope they do better than we did in 2006 when we reached the second round.

Q. So who are the favourites for the title in Qatar?

The favourites for the World Cup are the obvious ones. You have France, the defending champions, and then there are Brazil, Argentina and Germany. But I am going to say England because they had a great Euro 2020. Obviously they had a sticky patch, but this World Cup is happening in winter. Normally, you play the World Cup after playing 40-50 games in the club season, but teams will be coming here with the players playing only 20 odd matches in the mid season. So I think it might benefit the European teams, especially England. It's been a long time coming and so we will see.

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