Socceroos fans have been left scratching their heads after Tim Cahill ditched his iconic corner-flag boxing celebration in this week’s must-win match against Syria.
The Australian legend stood up when it mattered most with two crucial goals to inspire a 2-1 comeback win and keep Australia’s World Cup hopes alive.
But instead of his trademark right hook Australian fans were treated to two new celebrations – a plane motion and “T” symbol.
And while it went under the radar on Tuesday, it has now been revealed the poses were likely a shameless plug for Australian online travel store Trip A Deal, which posted a picture of Cahill’s ‘T’ pose.
The company has since deleted the post.
“Did you catch @tim_cahill, our new brand ambassador, doing the TripADeal ‘T’ after he scored the winning goal last night? Congratulations Tim!” it read.
Cahill responded to the Trip A Deal post with a number of emojis.
He also plugged the travel company once again in his Instagram post after the match.
Social media users on Thursday were divided over whether Cahill’s actions were in the spirit of the game and took commercialisation a step too far, or it was an acceptable celebration.
Tim Cahill doing sponsored celebration after such a vital goal is one of the worst things to happen in football. I presumed T stood for Tim! pic.twitter.com/f664FMKRFx
— Dean Jones (@DeanJonesBR) October 12, 2017
“You might be wondering why Tim Cahill eschewed the flag boxing for a plane-type celebration. Not even mad. You make your bank bro,” one Twitter user said.
“How long until he starts carrying a billboard on the pitch?” another posted.
“Great player. Cheap act. Dirty money,” one commenter wrote.
“Far out love you cahill for what he does for the national team then you hate him for this kind of crap. his ego is sickening,” another said.
— David Squires (@squires_david) October 12, 2017
However, according to University of Canberra marketing expert Shaun Cheah, Cahill’s celebrations could have been part of his contract with Trip A Deal.
He said it is not the first time a sportsperson has indirectly promoted their brands on the field.
“This is nothing new, and the fact that it was not so blatant shows it isn’t an issue. It’s readily accepted,” Cheah told The New Daily.
“If you look at how some of the companies have written their contracts, this could be one of the things they’ve asked him to do.
“It’s on the brand ambassador to make sure it’s allowed as part of the game.”
According to FIFA’s laws of the game, commercial advertising is explicitly banned from the pitch, but it does not mention anything about players.
“No form of commercial advertising, whether real or virtual, is permitted on the field of play, on the ground within the area enclosed by the goal nets or the technical area,” it reads.
Football Federation Australia (FFA) told The New Daily that Cahill’s actions were against neither the spirit nor the laws of football.
“Tim Cahill’s goal celebrations against Syria did not breach the laws of the game,” an FFA spokesperson said.