Some goodbyes are harder than others.
When Tim Cahill walks off ANZ Stadium in his Socceroos shirt for the very last time he will take with him Australian football fans’ sense that anything was possible – as long as we had Tim.
Time and again, Cahill answered a football nation’s prayers and delivered moments of magic in the games that mattered most.
Cahill is the greatest big time performer in Australian sport since Don Bradman.
The numbers don’t lie. In his 107 appearances for the Socceroos he scored 50 times, bagging a rate of just under a goal every two games.
Cahill is part of a rare group of players who have scored in three consecutive World Cup Finals. Just as importantly, it is how and when he scored those goals that define him as our greatest ever Socceroo.
When the moment demanded it, Cahill delivered: From his double strike late on as a substitute in Kaiserslautern against Japan in 2006, which gave Australia its first win at the World Cup Finals, to his astonishing volley to equalise against the Netherlands in Porto Alegre in 2016.
He didn’t just steal the show, he was the show.
Fox Sports football commentator Simon Hill has called most of Tim Cahill’s magic moments. He told The New Daily that Cahill has been the most important asset that football has had in a generation.
“I wouldn’t say Tim was the most talented player that has played for the Socceroos, Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka are on a different level in that regard,” Hill said.
“In terms of sheer impact in the big moments, he transcended the game in a way that few other footballers in this country have done.
“If you asked anyone on the street who doesn’t necessarily like football to name a Socceroo, I’d guarantee that Tim Cahill would be the first one that would spring to mind.”
Cahill only had a brief cameo at the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia, his sole appearance coming as a substitute in the final group game against Peru in Sochi.
It was thought that would be the last appearance in the national shirt for the 38-year-old, who these days plies his trade in the Indian Super League with Jamshedpur football club.
— Samsung Australia (@SamsungAU) November 16, 2018
Football Federation Australia (FFA) has seen fit to include Cahill in the line-up for the game against Lebanon in Sydney.
Concerns have been raised that Cahill has been indulged with his farewell appearance at a time when new coach Graham Arnold should be fully focused on preparing his squad for their upcoming Asian Cup defence.
Former Socceroos captain Paul Wade is having none of it.
“My biggest problem is that in the past we haven’t celebrated our stars often enough. I think the 1974 Socceroos (the first Australian team to play at the World Cup Finals) have been ignored for a while,” Wade told The New Daily.
“We’ve not cherished our history and it’s about time we started celebrating it and hopefully Tim’s the first cab off the rank.”
Simon Hill is encouraging football fans to drink it all in one more time. The likes of Tim Cahill only come around once in a lifetime.
“When Australia were struggling Tim Cahill was always the guy you could stake your house on to come up with a goal when we needed it most,” Hill said.
“He was a walking headline. I lost count of the number of times I called him a freak or a phenomenon. You started to run out of superlatives to describe his goals. I remember sitting down before games thinking, ‘If he scores today, what the hell am I going to say?’
“And then he’d pop up with another goal!”
— TIM CAHILL (@Tim_Cahill) August 22, 2018
Wade admires Cahill’s ability to make an impact even when he wasn’t dominating games.
“If you look at Tim’s performances, he doesn’t touch every blade of grass on the ground, he doesn’t get 500 hundred touches a game but what he did do was win us all three points nearly all the time,” he said.
“He’s a genius.”
You wouldn’t be surprised if Tim Cahill signs off with more goal.
Not that he needs to.
He’s done more than enough to etch his name into the hearts of Australian sports fans for ever more.