BY ANTHONY HARWOOD
Former Millwall player Tim Cahill has been unveiled as an official FIFA ambassador for the next World Cup in Qatar.
The 40-year-old attacking midfielder joins a list of soccer greats to take up the role ahead of the 2022 tournament – including Xavi and Cafu, who won the trophy with Spain and Brazil.
Cahill made 217 appearances for The Lions between 1998 and 2004, scoring 52 goals. He then moved to Everton where he scored 56 times in 226 appearances between 2004-2012.
He is also Australia’s all-time leading goalscorer, finding the net 50 times in 108 caps, and playing in four World Cups between 2006 and 2018.
Cahill joins a list of former Merseyside players who have travelled to Qatar to support the tiny Gulf state – but is the first to be made a FIFA ambassador for the 2022 tournament.
Others include John Barnes, Jason McAteer, Steve McManaman and John Arne Riise.
Part of his new job will be to promote the tournament’s legacy project, called Generation Amazing, which is directed at getting a million youngsters living in disadvantaged parts of the world involved in football to improve their development.
Cahill’s own coaching clinics and All-Star Academy have already reached more than 10,000 children by providing free soccer and skills training.
He is also an ambassador for John Moriarty Football, a foundation that funds soccer programmes for indigenous Australians in remote communities.
He said: “To see the kids happy is one element, but when you can change their lives through reading, through decisions; or when you can change adults’ lives through mentorship or decision-making by sharing your life skills and what you’ve learnt through your 20-year career; my passion definitely shines through in this element, just as much as the football element.”
Mr Cahill has been a regular visitor to Qatar for 12 years, since before the country controversially won the right to host the World Cup in 2010, beating his home country, Australia, in the process.
Speaking during his announcement ceremony he spoke of Doha’s plans to dismantle the stadiums after the tournament is over and re-build them in poorer parts of the developing world, most likely Africa.
He said: “I had the privilege to actually be in Switzerland at the time Qatar won the (rights to host) World Cup. I remember afterwards talking about Qatar’s presentation; just seeing the elements of the stadiums being built visually, and then the way they were all getting lifted off and transferred to different countries.
“All this stuff was mind-blowing. They took the technology to a different level – everyone in that room was really impressed.
“To be sitting here today to see that concept in action, the stadiums, the air conditioning; it’s incredible.
“It’s the biggest tournament to come to the Middle East. To hold this tournament and to share it with the world – and to be in a place where it’s never been done before – that’s what football does.”
Picture: Tim Cahill with Nasser Al-Khater Deputy Secretary of Qatar‘s Supreme Committee