On Saturday night in the Melbourne Derby, Socceroo Tim Cahill contributed another classic to his already burgeoning archive of super goals. He has the most uncanny knack of doing it on the big stage. Think Germany 2006 when he grabbed two goals against Japan in the dying stages of the World Cup Group match, think Brazil 2014 when he launched that volley against the Netherlands, think a month back when Cahill came on as a substitute to score the only goal, the winning goal, in Australia’s World Cup Qualifying win over UAE. But can Cahill make it to Russia 2018?
When sportsmen get into their 30’s and particularly the mid 30’s they start to trot out the cliches ‘age is no barrier’, ‘it’s all in the mind’ etc. It’s a great philosophy but despite his super-human deeds Timmy is one of us humans, and what we all have in common is the slow degeneration of our physical and mental faculties (depressing right). Ask 1984 Olympic Gold Medallist Carl Lewis if he can still run the 100 metres in 9.99 seconds, ask Wimbledon winner John McEnroe if he would like to line up against current world number 1 Novak Djokovic, or ask 66 year old Max Krilich who played NRL for the Manly Sea Eagles and Australia in the 1970s, whether he would like to strap on the boots and run around against the current NRL elite.
Timmy is currently in the grey zone. He’s transitioning from being able to compete with anyone on any terms, to a point where he needs certain conditions to allow him to compete evenly. He won’t be sprinting as fast, his stamina will be fading and the time needed for his body to recover is extending and will continue to.
At 36 he has already defied age. This has a lot to do with his style of play and his lack of serious injuries and of course his professionalism. Note that Cahill is not renowned for his explosive speed or trickery on the ball. Players with these tools or skills are more prone to soft tissue injuries. That said at the age of 34 Cahill injured his hamstring while playing for New York just prior to the World Cup. Only last year Cahill was ruled out of a Socceroos clash due to an achilles tendon injury.
Body and injury management becomes more and more difficult as the athlete ages. The muscles and ligaments aren’t as strong and require more time to recover. The question on everyone’s lips is how can we get Timmy to Russia 2018?
It will take some expert management and Cahill’s utmost professionalism. This will mean Tim has to give up more game time. We will see Cahill spared the demanding Socceroos shifts in far off lands and his A-League boss will do the same. An example is his absence in Wellington in the first round of the Hyundai A-League. Sadly this means Western Australians are likely to miss out on a Cahill appearance. Don’t expect Melbourne City manager John van’t Schip to have Tim on the four to five hour flight from Melbourne to Perth. But this is what it will take for Cahill to continue ‘defying’ his age and to be alive in Russia in 2018.