For a footballer widely considered Australia’s greatest and most popular, Tim Cahill walks a fine line.
Marrying his public adoration with support for the Qatar World Cup and a move to China is a feat almost on par with his incredible goal-scoring exploits.
Cahill soared to new heights with his role in the Socceroos’ recent Asian Cup triumph – including a double to beat China in the quarter-finals.
The tournament marked the first time Australian fans had seen Cahill in the flesh for an extended stay, having made his name with English clubs Millwall and Everton, before his time with American club New York Red Bulls.
Rather than keeping the party rolling with an A-League homecoming, Cahill chose the riches of a reported $9.6 million deal to play with Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League.
Doubling down on the disappointment for local fans, Cahill has repeated his support for staging the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Cahill emerged as a fan of the tiny Gulf state hosting the world’s biggest sporting event after it was awarded to Qatar – over Australia, the United States and others.
While he turned down “amazing offers” from the Middle East to continue his club career in China, Australia’s all-time leading marksman said the 2022 World Cup would be exceptional, if the 2011 Asian Cup staged there was anything to go by.
“I’m a massive fan of Qatar and Dubai,” he said on Thursday at a New Balance launch on Thursday.
“I travelled there every year when I was in the Premier League to get a rehab … or just to rest.
“I don’t know the politics behind it and the things that go on in the country.
“I’m going off personal experiences, the way we were treated as Australians when we played in Qatar.”
Cahill said Australians should support the Qatar tournament as it would eventually help to bring the event down under.
“Definitely don’t discriminate against countries when it comes to having a go at a World Cup because Australia would want to have a go at it as well,” he said.
Cahill suggested his move to China, rather than Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, was based on his desire to lengthen his stay in a Socceroos shirt.
“I wouldn’t say I was close,” he said on a potential Middle East switch.
“There definitely were some amazing offers.
“You have to take in a lot of circumstances when you are ambassador for your country in football and you want to stay playing international football… when you have big influences in the game that you respect when you ask for advice.”
Cahill said his previous club boss David Moyes and Australian coach Ange Postecoglou were very influential in his decision.
The Socceroo known for his fearlessness on the pitch said he liked to show the same quality off the pitch.
“I make decisions that’s right and something that I want to do,” he said.
“It’s an exciting market, an exciting team, unbelievable city.
“I’m fearless when it comes to embracing new challenges.”