Tim Cahill: I have always been different

Tim Cahill says he's always been different.

He's adamant that's the key to getting where he is now.

Now, Cahill sits in a plush corporate area of Doha's Al Janoub Stadium, where Australia will play its three World Cup group games.

He feels at home - both in Qatar, where he now lives, and in the corporate box.

"Qatar, for me, has been incredible," Cahill told AAP.

Cahill is the epitomy of a global citizen.

Born in Sydney to a Samoan mother and English-born father of Irish descent.

An Australian football legend - the Socceroos' greatest goalscorer who featured at four World Cups.

A club great in England; an esteemed marquee in the United States, China, Australia and India.

Now, Cahill is the chief sports officer of Qatar's world-renowned Aspire Academy, an institution with a vision of being the world's leading sports academy.

"After 20 years as a player, to be here and to learn and to be across many projects and work at Aspire Academy," he said.

"To learn about federations around the world, to work with them, to help run one of their football clubs, to be involved in the World Cup - to be involved in so many different things is exciting but at the same time, to study and to learn.

"I am connected with the world so you will see me flying a lot to Australia, America, Africa, to the UK, to working with Everton. There's a lot that connects me with the world globally with football."

Whether it's sitting with prime ministers and presidents such as Liberia's leader George Weah.

At a boardroom table of India's multinational conglomerate Tata Group, boasting a net worth of more than $A460 billion.

Discussing football's future with the upper crust of powerbrokers at FIFA, where he's an ambassador for the World Cup.

Meeting with personal sponsors from global forex brokers to children's book publishers to worldwide sportswear manufacturers to tech stock companies to health food companies - and more.

Or sitting in a sweaty locker-room talking tactics with the Socceroos.

Cahill is at home among them all.

Does he pinch himself at his global reach?

"Honesty, not really," he said.

"Because I have always been different.

"When I left the (English) Premier League at 32, I went to New York Red


"And when I left New York, I went to China in a time when football contracts were astronomical - at 35 years old, people were saying I was over the hill.

"After that I went back to Australia with the City Football Group, enjoyed an amazing time.

"And then went to India with the Tata Group."

The moves, like everything Cahill did on a football pitch, were strategic; with a goal in mind.

"For me it has always been business, commercial, entrepreneurship, connecting, relationships," he said.

"I have always been connected. And it's not something that just happened.

"Where I sit now is working with FIFA, working with Qatar, working with football federations.

"It's great to sit at the FIFA table ... it's great to be sitting in meetings where you have got a prime minister or a president.

"I feel like I have earnt it."

Cahill retired in 2019 as a Socceroos legend: 50 goals in 108 appearances.

He scored at three consecutive World Cups - only four players have scored at four-straight cups: Pele, Uwe Seeler, Miroslav Klose and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Cahill also netted 169 goals in 683 club games across England (at Millwall and Everton), the US (New York Red Bulls), China (Shanghai Shenhua, Hangzhou Greentown), Australia (Melbourne City) and India (Jamshedpur).

But bask in that glory? No chance.

Cahill, like he was on the pitch, is always moving forward.

"I feel like academically, I am really following my education to be allowed to have that seat at the table," Cahill said.

"Instead of just saying 'oh, remember when I used to score goals here or score goals there'. For me, I have no interest in that.

"Now, I am effecting football in a unique way."

When he quit playing, Cahill thought he'd become a coach. He earnt the relevant badges, all the way to the highest coaching certificate, the UEFA Pro Licence.

"I went on the journey of wanting to become a manager and then took a different approach," he said.

"After doing some executive diplomas, sports management, the business course at Harvard, I wanted to manage from a much higher level - help to run football clubs, help to run federations and also grassroots with methodologies."

In April last year, Cahill was appointed chief sports officer at Aspire Academy.

The academy runs training programs across a range of sports; is at the cutting edge of sports science; has global networks with football clubs - it owns European football clubs KAS Eupen in Belgium (where Cahill is a board member) and Cultural Deportiva y Leonesa in Spain.

The academy works with some national football federations and powerhouse clubs including Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain tap into its facilities - so will the Socceroos, who are staying at Aspire during the World Cup.

"Aspire Academy has been an amazing learning curve," Cahill said.

"It just seems to be something that I see my future with - working across big institutions but also changing the footprint of football on a global level, not only domestically.

"It's nice to be in the thick of the action with football but ... I am the chief sports officer so I work across athletics, swimming, table tennis, squash, fencing.

"I am learning a lot about different methodologies and different sports.

"I am thankful that this will stand me in good stead for the future, especially to be someone who wants to be a leader in sport, in football, someone who wants to run big institutions and federations."