Tim Cahill has come under fire from football fans after dodging a question about Qatar's human rights record and his view on the Socceroos' protest against the host nation before the World Cup got underway. Cahill has been at the forefront in Qatar after accepting a lucrative role for the World Cup, where he was named an official ambassador of Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), the organisation responsible for delivering the infrastructure for the showpiece event.
The Socceroos great joined a star-studded cast of footballing legends who have endorsed the SC, including the likes of David Beckham, Xavi, Samuel Eto'o, Cafu and other local and regional sporting luminaries. However, his ambassadorial role has been tinged in controversy ever since he accepted it in 2020, with fellow Socceroos legend Robbie Slater describing it as a "load of crap". Cahill and Beckham are among the most high-profile stars being paid big money by Qatar to promote the country, in the face of worldwide condemnation.
Qatar has been widely criticised for its human rights record, with discrimination against women and homosexuals among the numerous issues coming under the world's microscope in the lead-up to the tournament. Homosexuality is forbidden in Qatar, which has sparked protests from a number of teams including the Socceroos, while the host nation has also come under fire for its extensive use and alleged mistreatment of thousands of migrant workers recruited to build the eight stadiums required for the tournament.
Germany was another team to have protested against Qatar by posing for a team photo in the group stages where the players covered their mouths before the opening game against Japan, in what was viewed as a blunt criticism of FIFA's attempts to silence the human rights debate in Qatar.
However, it was the Socceroos' pre-tournament protest - in which some 16 Australian players released a video message expressing concern over Qatar's human rights record - that the furore around Cahill centres around after he walked out on an interview when questioned about it.
Before the World Cup began, I managed to secure a brief interview with @Tim_Cahill . He happily answered my first two questions. This is what happened when I asked Australia's Head of Delegation if he supported the Socceroos' human rights video. pic.twitter.com/MSkad5IJAO
— Ben Lewis (@benlewismedia) December 4, 2022
SBS News journalist Ben Lewis shared a snippet of his pre-tournament interview with Cahill on Twitter on Monday morning, during which the Socceroos' record goal-scorer simply walks off mid-interview when asked to confirm whether or not he supported the Aussie team's video message being released. Lewis says all attempts to secure a follow-up interview with Cahill were unsuccessful.
“Before the World Cup began, I managed to secure a brief interview with @Tim_Cahill,” Lewis wrote. "He happily answered my first two questions. This is what happened when I asked Australia’s Head of Delegation if he supported the Socceroos’ human rights video.
“The female voice you hear was a PR rep working for the event sponsor interjecting. We were told by Football Australia that Cahill would be happy to speak later in the week and he “wasn’t trying to avoid answering questions”. We mentioned that fact in our story that day.
“He was scheduled to do a press conference later that week. But it was cancelled at short notice due to scheduling issues. We asked repeatedly to see if a new time could be found, to no avail.
“Cahill wears multiple hats. He was ‘Head of Delegation’ for the Socceroos. He’s the Chief Sports Officer at Aspire Centre, where they trained/stayed. He’s a ‘Qatar Legacy Ambassador’. And of course, he’s one of Australia’s greatest ever footballers.
“Anyway, the interview/presser sadly never happened. After the Socceroos made R16, Cahill released a self-shot video message talking about the result. We didn’t use it, given the many requests we had made to speak with him were rebuffed.
“We were told that when games started, he wanted the focus to be on the current players- totally fair. Now Australia’s brilliant run has ended, we’d still love to hear his views on working for Qatar’s organising committee and the Socceroos’ stance on human rights issues.”
Tim Cahill cops it over telling interview snub
Cahill - perhaps unsurprisingly - has been savaged by football fans on social media after failing to comment. Many have accused the 42-year-old of displaying shameless self-interest and caring about money more than the rights of others.
Looks like his Vi$ion is all that matters. At least have the guts to say you can’t publicly agree with the Socceroos’ stance on Qatari human rights abuses because it would risk your personal profit. And if that’s not true then SAY IT.
— Sheik Yerbouti (@sheikyerbouti29) December 4, 2022
Tim’s only ever been interested in one thing. Tim’s bank account.
— FootballFocusAU (@FootballFocusAU) December 4, 2022
— Dylan Arvela (@dylanarvela) December 4, 2022
Well done Ben. Really surprised how easily Tim got off in the grand scheme of things by Aus media and federation and has never spoke on-the-record about his position on the human rights, LGBTIQ+ and the blatant sportswashing that he’s consciously apart of.
— Tom Patterson (@Tompatto1) December 4, 2022
Beckham, having reportedly signed a 10-year deal worth some $A266 million to promote Qatar, has come under even heavier fire as the most high-profile football ambassador for Qatar. In many ways, the former England captain has shielded the likes of Cahill and other ambassadors from the brunt of the criticism.
The Manchester United icon was challenged by British comedian and TV presenter Joe Lycett to pull the pin on his deal with Qatar, with Socceroos great and SBS commentator Craig Foster also slamming Beckham for failing to speak out against Qatar's strict stance on homosexuality.
“Not saying anything about the criminalisation of the LGBTI community in Qatar is absolutely horrendous,” Foster said. “He’s been called on by various people in the UK to change his stance. I hope he does. His incredible brand known all around the world... he actually has an opportunity to try and create significant impact and even change there in Qatar, so I hope he uses it.”
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.