Troubling video appears to show Socceroos legend Tim Cahill walk out on an interview over a question about the Socceroos’ Qatar protests.
The Australian football legend has been one of the highest-profile global ambassadors for the World Cup host nation and last month officially joined the Socceroos’ camp as a coaching consultant with Graham Arnold and as Australia’s head of delegation at the tournament.
He is also juggling his position as chief sports officer at the $1.3 billion Aspire Academy where the Socceroos were based and his role as a member of the Qatar World Cup’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy.
His position recently sparked controversy and criticism — considering the Socceroos’ made global headlines earlier this year as the first team to make a unanimous statement of condemnation of the World Cup host.
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The juggling act appears to have come to the surface in concerning video posted SBS News journalist Ben Lewis on Twitter on Monday morning.
The network’s chief international correspondent posted claims Cahill walked out on the interview after being asked about the Socceroos’ bold stance against Qatar’s human rights abuses.
In a lengthy Twitter thread Lewis writes he has been unable to organise any further interview with Cahill since the interview was broken off before the World Cup began on November 23.
“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.”
Cahill, 42, sits alongside football icon David Beckham as among the highest profile stars being paid to spruik the virtues of the Gulf state.
Cahill, Spanish legend Xavi, Cameroon great Samuel Eto’o and Brazilian icon Cafu — all ambassadors for Qatar 2022 — must all be thankful that Beckham has largely shielded them by taking the brunt of the world’s criticism.
The former England and Manchester United star has signed a 10-year deal worth a reported $A266 million to promote the World Cup and its host nation Qatar.
Socceroos great Craig Foster this week slammed Beckham over the Arab nation’s discrimination against gay people and women, as well as its human rights record.
“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.”
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and Muslims found breaking the strict Islamic law can face the death penalty.
Qatar was controversially awarded the rights to host the biggest sporting event on the planet in 2010 despite a lack of facilities and the prospect of playing the tournament in hot desert conditions.
Qatar has since completed a $A470 billion construction extravaganza — at the cost of an estimated 6500 construction workers’ lives.
The argument defending Beckham and Cahill has always been that there is a belief that the nation has begun to improve on its abysmal human rights record and the unifying power of football and the World Cup will continue that trajectory.
Cahill’s own website says part of his ambassador role is to promote “legacy” programs from the World Cup, including workers’ welfare.
But his role puts him at odds with a powerful statement from the Socceroos in the lead up to the tournament.
Sixteen players read lines from a collective statement calling for an “effective remedy” to Qatar’s human rights issues.
“Addressing these issues is not easy. And we do not have all the answers,” the Australian players said.
“We stand with FIFPro, the Building and Wood Workers International, and the International Trade Union Confederation, seeking to embed reforms and establish a lasting legacy in Qatar. This must include establishing a migrant resource centre, effective remedy for those who have been denied their rights, and the decriminalisation of all same-sex relationships.
“These are the basic rights that should be afforded to all and will ensure continued progress in Qatar … [and] a legacy that goes well beyond the final whistle of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”
Former Socceroo Robbie Slater said in 2020 Cahill’s role with Qatar was “unnecessary and a poor choice”.
“Look, I think this is a poor choice, I’m sorry. We all love Timmy of course, he’s our greatest Socceroo — that’s undoubtedly his title,” Slater said.
“It (Cahill’s appointment) all sounds like a load of crap to me. It’s up to them, they can call it what they want but I don’t agree that Tim should be on it, I’m sorry. I think it’s a poor choice.
“I’m not a left-wing activist who is going to go out there and protest but I think this is a poor choice.”
At the time of his appointment, Cahill hit back at Slater and his critics.
“My role is an influential role in world football,” he said.
“It’s not about certain issues that people are attacking me for. It’s one of those things. I don’t take anything to heart because it’s just a perception of what they see, or feel. How people interpret what they want to interpret, I’m totally fine with that.
“I don’t have any real comment on their feelings because I’m of a different influence, being named one of four global ambassadors that can help make a big change [to Qatar].”
Cahill currently lives in Doha.