Australia’s top goal-scorer’s personal experience serves as an inspiration for all youth – whether they play football or not
“I was told that I was too short to be selected to play professional football.”
The remark – from Australia’s topmost football goal-scorer Tim Cahill – comes as a surprise. Even more so considering that he is known for his high vertical leaps to head the ball into the goal post – a feat normally associated with tall players.
I had to be mindful that I was representing more than myself; I was representing my family and my country. It’s an emotion, a responsibility, that goes alongside doing something that you believe in.
“I could have believed that one comment, and not kept going – but I knew what I could do, what I was capable of. So instead of giving up and getting discouraged, I worked hard. I focused on my strengths and what I could do well, and developed those. And that dedication is all I needed.”
The former Everton player was in Doha recently as a VIP guest at Generation Amazing’s (GA) – an initiative of Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) – inaugural youth football festival, held in partnership with Qatar Foundation and FIFA Foundation.
The festival was the first in a series of similar festivals that will be held in the run up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.
During the festival, Cahill interacted with 140 youth from eight countries – Qatar, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Philippines, Oman, Jordan, and Lebanon – who participated in GA’s festival.
The ex-FIFA World Cup footballer, whose versatility saw him play both as a midfielder and forward, shared his personal story of facing challenges and defying the odds when he took part in the festival’s activities at Qatar Foundation’s Oxygen Park.
“Your success is not just about you,” he said. “You have to respect and acknowledge the other elements that come into play: the sacrifices your parents make; the experiences that you have; the life lessons you learn in school. Then you need to convert all these into something you’re passionate about.
“Despite the doubts about my stature, I worked hard to enter professional football. I was just 16 when I traveled halfway around the world to the UK to play professionally.
“When I did that I had to be mindful that I was representing more than myself; I was representing my family and my country. It’s an emotion, a responsibility that goes alongside doing something that you believe in – which, in my case, was football.”
Dedication ties upbringing, cultural values, and training together to convert sacrifice into success
Cahill noted how dedication holds the key to being able to steadily move closer to one’s goals – in the face of failure.
“Dedication ties upbringing, cultural values, and training together to convert sacrifice into success,” he said. “You can talk about talent, teamwork, and training, but you need to have unwavering dedication to be able to see you to the point where your dreams turn into reality.
“That level of dedication is what taught me to learn from my failures; from being told I’ll never make it because of my physique, all the way to playing at three FIFA World Cups.”
Since retiring in 2018, Cahill says that he uses every opportunity to share his personal experiences with the wider public, especially children and the youth.
“Today, I'm 40 years old, and I can look back at a great career,” says the football legend who played for Millwall and Everton football clubs in the UK, and then, for Australia’s national football team.
“But I'm just as passionate now to give back at the grassroot level; to help youngsters understand what I had to face in order to reach where I am now – especially those children and teenagers who would have had someone tell them they wouldn’t make it either; that they don’t have what it takes to achieve their dreams.
“And that's also the reason why I write children's books. I’ve written a series of books that make it easy for kids to relate to the experiences I had, to understand that if they dedicate the time, put in the effort, and use every opportunity that comes their way, they can easily score goals – off pitch and on it.”
And the name of the series he’s penned is reminiscent of the nickname that his Everton fans gave him when he played for the English club: Tiny Timmy.