Following his farewell, what's next for Tim Cahill?
When most professional footballers hit the ripe old age of 39, their boots have been gathering cobwebs they’ve been hung up so long. As so often in Tim Cahill’s phenomenal career, he’s the exception to the rule.
The Australian legend has been defying the odds from the beginning.
He wrote himself into international football history as the Caltex Socceroos' leading goal-scorer and joined a prestigious group of stars to have played at four FIFA World Cups.
He dominates rival defenders in the air, even when they tower above him while walking on the ground.
And, just as many expected a glittering career to be drawing to a close, he’s preparing for another huge challenge, aiming to put an emerging league on the global football map.
“I’m 39 in December and I’m going to head up a massive league with a billion people living in the country, so that’s exciting, and I get to have a farewell in November, which I wasn’t expecting,” said Cahill, days after agreeing to sign for Indian Super League club Jamshedpur FC.
Making an impact
Following the Caltex Socceroos' clash with Lebanon in November - his farewell in a gold and green jersey - Cahill will be flying straight to Spain.
There he will join his new teammates in a high intensity camp at Ciudad Deportiva, the state-of-the-art training facility of La Liga giants Atletico Madrid. As you would expect, Cahill has only one thing on his mind.
“To make an impact, that’s what I’m going to go and do,” he told www.socceroos.com.au.
“I know I will because I’m fit, I’m professional, I’ve joined a great organisation. It’s their fifth season and the backing that they have from the fans is astronomical.
“I knew that when I went to China and I know that now. There’s another seven foreign players in my team who are Spanish and Brazilian.
“The opportunity is unbelievable, to go to another market I can cross off as an Australian footballer, with four World Cups, three Asian Cups, five countries around the world.”
“Life is good and I’m grateful for every opportunity and even at my age, I’m going to give it everything.”
It seems appropriate Cahill is aligning himself with a club known as the ‘Men of Steel’, but he admits that tough outer shell might be tested when he walks out as a Caltex Socceroo for the final time at ANZ Stadium.
“For me, when I got the call to have the farewell match it wasn’t hard,” said Cahill.
“No problems, tell me where you need me to be, what you want me to do and I’ll show up.
“Whether I play or don’t play, it’s an absolute honour. I feel that I’m just going to say thank you and enjoy the moment, and go along for the ride.
“I'll make sure that I get to see as many fans and pay tribute to the people that have made my career really special.”
The next chapter
There was never any chance Cahill would miss the opportunity for an emotional goodbye to those who supported him across the best part of two decades – but his life in North East India is already taking shape.
“While I’m there I’ll be doing my [coaching] modules and I’ll be doing some business courses and sports management courses,” Cahill said.
“I said I was going to do that in my time off and I can do it at the same time, along with grassroots programs in schools and help the league with the local talent.”
How quickly plans can change. Only a matter of months ago, Cahill was swaying between throwing himself head first into another AFC Asian Cup campaign and hanging up those boots once and for all.
“I didn’t straight away know that I was going to retire. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I just needed time to rest after the World Cup,” he said.
“I needed to have a holiday and then put everything into perspective and then, when I made the decision. I’ve never ever had international breaks off, I’ve never really had those holidays and I need them.
“I didn’t know I was going to continue to play on. I switched off for three months to decide what I was going to do and now I’m going on an adventure to India and I can’t wait.”