In 2011, when Australian forward Tim Cahill scored a brace for his side against India in the Asia Cup in Doha, neither striker nor goal-keeper Subrata Paul had the Indian Super League (ISL) in mind, let alone playing for the same team.
Years later, the ISL in its fifth season, Jamshedpur FC has brought Australian football’s most famous and Indian football’s ‘spiderman’ onto the same team.
While Cahill just completed a fourth World Cup appearance with Australia in Russia, Paul who was the ‘Golden Glove’ winner in last season’s ISL will hope he can repeat his heroics under crossbar for yet another year.
In the fourth season of the competition, and Jamshedpur’s first, they finished fifth with Steve Coppell at the helm of affairs and narrowly missed out on qualification for the play-offs. The Men of Steel, who had a difficult time finding the back of the net in their debut season will look to alter that and like their marquee player says, ‘will be putting smiles on our fans faces.”
Cahill, best remembered by football fans for his eight year long stint with the Premier League club Everton, has also turned out for New York Red Bulls, Shanghai Shenhua, Melbourne City and Millwall among other clubs.
Understandably, in the summer Cahill received a multitude of offers from various clubs in Asia, but instead chose India.
The question that pops up immediately is, why? Especially given the gulf in standards in domestic football in India and in more established countries of the continent.
The forward explains that he is the kind of person who likes to explore various cultures. Friends with multiple cricketers in the Australian team, the former Evertonian had turned to fast bowler Brett Lee for advice before making his way up from the Southern hemisphere.
“I have travelled and played world over, but truly it was amazing to experience the welcome in Jamshedpur. The drums, culture, people of the city… for me it gave great motivation and I am very proud to be here in the Indian Super League and to be part of the city of Jamshedpur,” Cahill who is no stranger to extremely passionate fans says.
Wow what a way to meet our fans in India @jamshedpurfc The love for football is amazing and I'm so happy that I can experience this passion first hand. I've played all over the world and I'm excited now to play in INDIA. @IndSuperLeague pic.twitter.com/TM5ecOGAG6 — TIM CAHILL (@Tim_Cahill) September 19, 2018
Cahill, after his transfer was announced, joined the squad in Madrid during the pre-season before coming to India. One of the senior most, and possibly the talisman of the side, Cahill is well aware of how the team performed in the previous season and is on a mission to ensure that curve takes an upward bend.
“This is a new season and I am focusing to help my team achieve maximum points. The personal goal is to improve my team and see the right results. We have a great blend of foreign and Indian players including three from the Tata Football Academy.”
As a footballer, Cahill is probably the best footballer in the competition this season. He is not new to the concept of a marquee player as it is plays an important role in the team composition in the A-League in Australia.
When quizzed about the kind of role he will play both on and off the field, Cahill promptly says, “I would want to help the youngsters in the team. We have some players who have been promoted from the reserve side this season to the first team. I have taken them under my wing and will be watching and helping them out in a way that they can become better players.”
“I want to contribute on the field as much as off it. I would look to add more value than just be a marquee signing.”
Last season. Jamshedpur scored 16 goals in the league stages and was the joint second lowest scorers in the competition. With a new approach, and former Atletico Madrid coach Cesar Fernando in the dugout in place of a defensive Steve Coppell, the side hopes to improve on that tally. Spanish legend Fernando Torres and current Atletico coach Diego Simeone have both played under Ferrando.
“We need to be consistent from the first match and take each match at a time,” Cahill, who has scored 50 times for his country, outlines.
Among the things that has over the years been a concern in the ISL has been the scheduling as it often leads to teams playing multiple games over a very short period of time and travelling big distances.
In Europe, it is not uncommon for teams and managers to complain about playing a midweek game in the continental competitions and then having one of their domestic games scheduled for an early kick-off on the weekend roster. But according to Cahill, that cannot be an excuse for a poor show on any day.
“We are professionals and all these things should not matter. We are here to play for Jamshedpur FC and make sure the fans have a lot of enjoyment. The focus has to be on good work ethics and discipline,” Cahill shot back.
At 38, Cahill is not contemplating calling time on his career just yet and will in fact come out of international retirement when Australia play Lebanon in what will be a farewell game for the four-time World Cupper.
“I am really proud to represent my country in four World Cups and other prestigious tournaments around the world. It’s will be an emotional moment for me and my family,” the forward signed off.