Say what you want about Cahill but never boo him

If Tim Cahill announced today that he would be retiring from football after the end of the season, would you boo him this weekend? Or in any other match before the end of the campaign?

Tim Cahill

Tim Cahill doing the job for Melbourne City Source: Getty Images

No, you wouldn’t. Because the chances are you’re more aficionado than obnoxious, and you’d want to pay respect to a man who has given more to Australian football than he could ever take away.

Yes, he’s been paid well - that is no secret - but his contribution now surely exceed dollars and cents.

I wish those who booed him last weekend - even those good-natured, larrikin banterers or group-think booers - might think about that.

We’re running out of chances to see our greatest Socceroo (in terms of national team performances) live, one millions of children look up to. They have no cynicism in their eyes , just innocent admiration. Who knows; he might be an injury away from retirement.

It’s easy to put a target on Timmy’s back. I know, because in all the years I spent covering the game, articles about Cahill would rank off the charts in terms of both hits and comments. The replies on my Twitter feed would explode.

There is something a little twisted in the mind of the Australian sports fan. We call it tall poppy syndrome, but I suspect it runs much deeper.

It’s not a resentment of their actual success per se. It’s how they leverage their profile that bothers us.

We love our heroes, so long as they stay on the script. Humble, motivated only by national success and with very little tangible sign of money-driven motivation.

Start flashing the cash, or getting too mouthy, and this country can turn. But as Lleyton Hewitt and Mark Bosnich have shown, we can always turn back.

Football's roll call of booing makes me cringe. John Aloisi was the most famous one; the marquee stint at Sydney FC that, despite enjoying a happy ending, will be forever remembered for the times he couldn’t score and the money he was being paid.

Then Lucas Neill, in a sad turn of events, failed to comprehend the mounting angst regarding his leadership and ended up snapping at the fans who booed him against Costa Rica in 2013 - his one and only national game under Ange Postecoglou.

Plenty of the 2006 guard tread dangerously close to similar endings (although Archie Thompson was booed by rival fans, that was the result of endlessly winding them up).

To be fair, it did feel that the Socceroos, especially after the 2006 World Cup, became a team that belonged more to the players more than the nation itself. The Socceroos brand, once the symbol of the fighting underdog in us all, became a glorious cash-cow for the few. 

The public backlash to this was huge. The Socceroos brand had been milked dry (how long did that Optus ad with the crocodiles run for?) and by the end of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, the dwindling crowds proved it.

Indeed, Postecoglou called an end to that era and introduced us to a new one. A talented few, like Mark Milligan, Mile Jedinak and Matthew Spiranovic, have continued but the real survivor is Cahill.

I can vividly remember seeing him in the mixed zone in Porto Alegre, after scoring the wonder goal of the 2014 World Cup, but sad at picking up the yellow card which meant he wouldn’t play in another World Cup match. So he thought, so we thought. So much for that.

Instead, he kept going, and the moves kept coming. Major League Soccer and then China, surely ruling out the A-League. Even the press grew weary of the story and conceded he wouldn’t come home: too much to lose, a reputation to preserve, a legacy to leave and so on. And he was 37.

But guess what? He did come home. The "big boss man", David Gallop, got the deal to bring Cahill back over the line. And he's been pretty good, too.

Sure, he hasn't scored or started every week - but when he needed to make an impact, he has. His derby goal on debut was incredible. His FFA Cup winner was perfectly timed.

When he goes out to play or has something to say, there’s headlines. Most of them are positive (currently injury woes aside). His presence has been an asset to the league, not least in generating appeal ahead of the new broadcast deal.

I’ve understood why there was scepticism about Cahill in the past, but I feel his decision to come back to the A-League firmly tilts the scales in his favour.

He’s here - some others never came - and he’s still doing his bit. The money is there, of course, but he hasn’t shirked the issue for club or country, or the sport we all love.

Is that really someone you want to boo?

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Have a story or comment? Contact Us

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Watch nowOn Demand
Follow SBS Sport
5 min read
Published 14 December 2016 at 12:10pm
By Sebastian Hassett