There’s no denying the fact that Tim Cahill is a Socceroos legend, but does he deserve a final farewell against Lebanon at ANZ Stadium on November 20?
How many more goals would Cahill have scored for the Socceroos if he hadn’t been forced to delay making his debut until the age of 24, after once turning out for Samoa as a 14-year-old in a meaningless friendly?
That friendly ended up costing Cahill years in the green-and-gold, and it wasn’t until the late Sydney Morning Herald journalist Mike Cockerill took up the cause and started publicising Cahill’s case that FIFA eventually relaxed its rules around national allegiance.
And it’s a testament to Cockerill’s journalism that years after taking up the cudgels for Cahill, he turned around and wrote a prescient column claiming that Cahill was risking his legacy with his dalliance with the A-League.
You were one of a kind, Mike, and you are sadly missed.
But will Cahill be? Or has a frustrating 2018 World Cup campaign in Russia – where the erstwhile Millwall striker was handed just 37 minutes of action by interim coach Bert van Marwijk in the final pool game – taken some of the shine off a glittering Socceroos career?
There’s a misconception in some quarters that Cahill loaded up on goals early on in his Socceroos career against inferior opponents from Oceania.
But a quick fact-check suggests that was hardly the case, with Cahill scoring a brace in his second Socceroos appearance against Tahiti and a hat-trick against Fiji in the OFC Nations Cup, and another goal against the Solomon Islands in a 2006 World Cup qualifier.
And the calibre of opponent for his next international goals – Norway, the Netherlands and, famously, Japan – prove that Cahill was a decisive figure from early on in his international career.
In fact, Cahill had a knack for consistently scoring in the biggest games of all – and not just at the World Cup.
He scored in three consecutive Asian Cups, including a double in Brisbane that took Australia into the semi-finals on home soil in 2015.
He scored a vital winner against Oman in Melbourne in 2011 in Asian Cup qualifying that helped the Socceroos narrowly top a group they struggled to emerge from.
And he scored an incredible 20 goals in World Cup qualification – including two in the 2018 continental playoff against Syria at ANZ Stadium last October.
In fact, his 11 goals in 2018 World Cup qualification gave him the same total as Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku and Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen.
Yet his ill-fated stint at Melbourne City and the incessant references to his legacy have tarnished Cahill’s reputation for some.
Then there was his dogged pursuit of a place in van Marwijk’s squad. For all the goals, did he truly deserve to be there?
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. History shows that he did indeed travel to Russia, where he failed to become the first Australian player to score in four consecutive World Cups.
But doesn’t the fact that he was good enough to put himself in that position deserve our acknowledgement?
Couldn’t we simply applaud Cahill onto the pitch for the final ten minutes against Lebanon, instead of cutting him down like every other tall poppy who does something notable?
Bastian Schweinsteiger played a testimonial for Bayern Munich in midweek that saw 75,000 fans turn out to watch the former German international and World Cup winner play one half for his current side Chicago Fire and the other half for Bayern.
I doubt there were too many fans inside the Allianz Arena sniggering at Schweinsteiger’s contribution to the German game.
The fact is that Football Federation Australia have finally listened to fans by taking the Socceroos back to Brisbane for a friendly against South Korea on November 17.
They should do one other thing, and give Cahill a brief cameo against Lebanon in Sydney so that he can get the hometown farewell he honestly deserves.
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