Tim Cahill’s silence in Qatar leaves a sense of unease amid Socceroos World Cup celebrations

Tim Cahill has been talking a lot in recent weeks. He pumped up Socceroos players, pressed flesh at Fifa events and maintained his relationship with Qatar World Cup officials.

Apparently the only people he hasn’t spoken to are the media. When Cahill was named Australia’s “head of delegation” on November 15, the not unreasonable assumption was that he would have something to say. The caveat, of course, is that making yourself available to say things also opens the door to sensitive questions about who you work for and why.

Related: Cheering crowds welcome Australia’s Socceroo World Cup heroes

It’s been almost three years since Cahill joined Samuel Eto’o, Xavi and Cafu in becoming ambassadors for this hugely controversial World Cup. At the time, the great Socceroos were criticized, but since then the review has, in relative terms, been sparse.

Even now, he is protected from glare, thanks in large part to global censorship directed at his counterpart David Beckham, another heavily paid former Gulf state player whose brilliance of stardom has gone under. silent on human rights issues.

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But he had to know that at some point in the tournament the questions would come and it would be prudent to prepare some sort of answer. If he has one, no one knows what it is, because he hasn’t spoken. By the time most of the Australian media landed in Doha three weeks ago, SBS reporter Ben Lewis had already secured and conducted a brief interview with Cahill. It was brief because Cahill, with the help of a public relations executive, closed a question about the Socceroos’ collective protest against the “suffering” of migrant workers and the safety of LGBTI+ people. He walked away without a word. Without even a cursory response or non-comment, just a look of indignation and a turn on the heels.

Afterwards, Lewis was assured that Cahill was not avoiding the issue and would gladly answer questions later in the week. A few days later, Football Australia – which had no control over the 42-year-old’s schedule or media commitments – managed to arrange a press conference with Cahill. This was canceled on short notice due to a scheduling conflict and never happened, despite repeated requests until Sunday afternoon.

The media said he didn’t want to distract the team, an explanation that seems at odds with the selfie video Cahill had distributed on his behalf the day after Australia’s historic win over Denmark . Guardian Australia received the unsolicited video via an email from the Qatar 2022 Supreme Delivery and Legacy Committee, backing his lucrative ambassadorship. It was also shared with other journalists.

During these three weeks on the pitch, the Australian media had the opportunity to speak with almost every member of the Socceroos squad and coaching staff, as well as the Chief Executive of Football Australia , James Johnson, and Federal Sports Minister Anika Wells. . Cahill, though quiet, was omnipresent, on the pitch in training at Aspire Academy and in the locker room before and during games.

And this is the point that complicates the situation. The Socceroos, who qualified just five months before their opener, would not have secured residency at the world-class Aspire had it not been for Cahill’s role as director of sport. The use of truly impressive facilities, albeit state-funded and at the center of Qatar’s Football Dreams project, contributed to Australia’s unprecedented success during the tournament. Its recovery resources are unmatched. Aspetar, the world-renowned orthopedic and sports medicine hospital, is next door and has analyzed every inch of the players’ bodies to determine their fitness or otherwise before each game.

Related: From Behich to Kuol: Five Socceroos World Cup highlights

With all of this in mind, it’s hard to form an argument that FA shouldn’t have embraced this opportunity and capitalized on the high performance benefits it offers. On top of that, Cahill has clearly been a supporting figure during the campaign and a source of motivation for the players, many of whom look up to him. The team was here to play football, and he definitely helped that cause.

Cahill, who lives in Doha, said in 2020 that his role as ambassador to Qatar 2022 was “a natural progression for me”. Its own website says part of its role is to “promote various legacy activities and programs” run by the Supreme Committee, including worker welfare. Had he spoken, he might have chosen to build on one of the points made in the Socceroos’ nuanced video, which acknowledged some improvements in the country, including the dismantling of the kafala system and the improvement of working conditions and a minimum wage (although the Socceroos also said more needed to be done).

Unfortunately, we don’t know what he thinks about it. We also don’t know if he spoke about the issue with the Socceroos, who are very committed to their cause. This piece would have benefited considerably from Cahill’s input – it is his right to state his own beliefs for the public record. All we know is that he didn’t consider the matter before the tournament and didn’t commit afterwards.

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