Tim Cahill AO was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2023 as an Athlete Member for his contribution to the sport of soccer.
Cahill was one of Australian soccer’s most influential players in a career that spanned two decades as he helped to guide the Socceroos to one of their most successful eras.
An attacking midfielder and striker whose trademark shadow boxing goal celebrations around the corner flag was a spectacular part of his on-field arsenal, Cahill thrived on playing for his country.
His exceptional strike-rate saw him score a record 50 goals from his 108 international caps.
He was the first Australian to score a goal in a World Cup and on four visits to world football’s biggest event, he scored in three successive World Cups (2006, 2010 and 2014).
He was also the first Australian to score in an Asian Cup, reserving some of his most significant moments for when he was wearing his country’s colours.
But Cahill perfectly balanced his international representation with an outstanding and prolific club career that saw him play the sport in different leagues across four continents.
He was best known for playing more than 200 matches for both Millwall and Everton in the United Kingdom, where he showcased his brilliance on a consistent basis.
Cahill also played in the USA, China, India and in Australia before officially retiring in 2019 as one of the most loved and respected footballers to have played the game in this country.
One of the most admirable traits of a sports star – no matter the code – is that capacity to not only relish but to ‘own’ the most significant moments.
On that measurement, and so many more, Tim Cahill was among the greatest Australian soccer players in the history of the game.
More often than not, he was able to rise to the occasion with a rare gift of being able to find the goals for Australia and in his high-end club representation when it was required most.
Cahill became one of this country’s most recognisable and respected sports stars of his era, elevating soccer into this country into the mainstream and driving a professionalism in the game with his hard work, his determination and his deft skills.
He saved many of his best performances for moments when his country needed him, which made him a big-game player capable of providing the spark for his teammates when they needed a spike in their own performance. It also made him so popular with the fans.
He did it so regularly that his shadow boxing goal celebrations on the corner post became his signature move.
Cahill once said he had never met anyone who loved playing for the Socceroos as much as he did. He became his country’s talisman, an opportunistic showman who brought the crowd to their feet with his capacity to make something out of nothing on the scoresheet.
Incredibly, he represented Samoa at a world youth championships – his mother is Samoan – when he was 14. That performance as a substitute meant he was not eligible to play for the country of his birth until FIFA changed the eligibility criteria in 2003.
Within a year, he had made his Socceroos debut and it would be wearing the green and gold where he produced some of his signature achievements.
He famously became the first Australian player to score a goal in a FIFA World Cup in 2006, launching a loose-ball rocket past a sea of players as he spearheaded a fightback against Japan in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Then he added another one for good measure and the Socceroos went on to record a 3-1 comeback victory over Japan.
In a difficult 2010 World Cup, where he overcame injuries and missed the second group match after being red-carded, he slammed a header in the final group match against Serbia.
He scored in the opening group match against Chile in 2014 with a leap in the air and a header. Then he produced something remarkable against The Netherlands, with a mid-air left foot missile that found the back of the net and was nominated as one of the best goals of the tournament.
He scored twice against Syria in the qualification stages of the 2018 World Cup and made it through to his fourth World Cup at 38, but only had limited opportunities in his one group game which would prove his last match at an international tournament.
But as elite as Cahill was in representing his country in so many big tournaments, it shouldn’t downplay his exceptional performances at elite club level as well.
Having once been considered too small and too slow early in his career in his native Sydney, he re-emerged with Sydney United before taking the opportunity at 16 to head to England for a series of try-outs.
His parents helped to fund the move by taking out a loan. As risky as that investment looked initially, it would pay big dividends in the long run.
Following a series of trials, he was picked up by Millwall and would go on to play 217 games and score 52 goals from 1998 to 2004. He played a part in the club’s road through to the 2004 FA Cup final, ultimately going down to Manchester United 0-3.
Cahill moved to Everton where he took his game to a new level, playing in 226 matches and scoring 56 goals from 2004-2012.
He would also play for the New York Red Bulls, Shanghai Shenhua, Hangzhou Greentown, Melbourne City in the A-League and Jamshedpur.
His career was significant in so many ways, not the least of which was the fact that his style of play and passion inspired a generation of young Australian hopefuls to take up the game.
Honours & Achievements
- 2004: Oceania Footballer of the Year
- 2004-05: Evertons Player of the Season and Top Goal Scorer
- 2006: Nominated for the Ballon d’Or
- 2008-09: Australian Professional Football Association Player of the Year
- 2012: Named in Australia’s greatest ever team
- 2013: Named New York Red Bulls Most Valuable Player
- 2013: New York Red Bulls Goal of the Year and Golden Boot winner
- 2013: Name in MLS Best XI
- 2014: Name in MLS All-Stars team
- 2015: AFC Asian Cup Goal of the tournament
- 2015: AFC Asian Cup Team of the tournament
- 2016-17: A-League Goal of the Year
- 2021: Made an Officer of the Order of Australia
Photo courtesy News Corp Australia.