Tim Cahill’s heroic moment sullied by alleged cash-grab celebration

Evan Morgan Grahame Columnist

By , Evan Morgan Grahame is a Roar Expert

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    It wasn’t something you would have immediately noticed, caught up as so many of us were in breathless whooping and chest thumping in the aftermath of Tim Cahill’s winning goal against Syria on Tuesday.

    But, FIFA is now reportedly investigating Cahill and whether he did use his winning goal celebration as a platform to further the commercial agenda of a company he is an ambassador for.

    TripADeal, a travel company that sells holiday packages, posted an image on their Instagram of Cahill miming the letter T, mid-jog, following the wonderful winning header that clinched progression for the Socceroos. “The TripADeal ‘T'”, according to the post, on show for everyone to see. “Did you catch it?”, they asked. Well, I’ve certainly caught something, because I’m suddenly feeling a little ill.

    Perhaps this is just an opportunistic bit of social media bandwagoning; Cahill might have been making the gesture for some other reason, and TripADeal are just taking advantage of it, trying to craft a tongue-in-cheek viral tidbit.

    But then, in the image, you can see that Tim Cahill’s official Instagram account has replied to the post, with some jovial emoji spam, a smiley face, the 100 symbol, a jet taking off.

    Needless to say, a large portion of the football-loving public are feeling less than pleased about it.

    As far as sponsorship opportunities go, Cahill is the most sought-after footballer in the country, a bonafide national hero whose longevity and quality at national level is unrivalled by any other Socceroo.

    He is an incredibly eloquent, confident speaker; Cahill’s post-match interviews always flow nicely, with no verbal stumbling, and broadcast the impression of an athlete very much at home under the spotlight – he might take some time to train up Aaron Mooy on some of these on-camera skills.

    He’s never been embroiled in an off-the-field scandal, or been responsible for some abject on-the-field moment.

    It’s no surprise he’s attracting so many sponsorship offers, and no one should begrudge any athlete – a temporal professional fighting to make as much money before their body gives out – from trying to maximise their earnings.

    But at what point does the seeping presence of corporate sponsors become intolerable?

    There are strict rules about who can have their corporate emblems plastered over sportspeople, and most of the rules restricting players from attaching their own personal sponsors to their clothes or bodies are made specifically with the protection of their other sponsors in mind.

    Tim Cahill

    (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

    Nicklas Bendtner was fined £80,000 in 2012 when, having scored for Denmark, he lifted up his shirt to expose the name of a betting agency printed on the band of his underpants.

    Whether or not Cahill’s alleged stunt should draw an equivalent punishment, or whether the national team sponsors have legal reason to be perturbed is a question for the relevant lawyers and administrators.

    What I would like to stand behind, though, is the idea that certain sporting moments should be kept unsullied by the poisonous tendrils of capitalist opportunism.

    The entire Socceroos supporter base was glued to the screens, nails gnawed down to pulpy stumps, waiting for that moment.

    It’s hard to tell on the game telecast when exactly the gesture occurred; Cahill was mobbed by his teammates – a few seconds after he held his arms out, imitating an aeroplane, perhaps? Hmmm – and the broadcast cut to replays of the goal before the T gesture happened.

    Photographers did capture the moment.

    Even if this was a case of blatant commercialism it isn’t something to get too outraged about; there are certainly more serious issues to protest in world football.

    But it has raised eyebrows and overshadowed what might end up being a historic moment in Australia’s World Cup journey.

    Gareth Bale trademarked his highly irritating celebratory heart gesture in 2013, not that we’ve seen much of it since then.

    Multiple high-profile players have debuted personal logos over the past few years; it seems this is the future we’re heading towards.

    It may not be long before we see players en masse forego celebrating with their teammates, in favour of performing sponsored celebrations conceived and paid for by companies.

    Even the glorious aftermath of goals, something that should be reserved entirely for basking in the golden light of sporting triumph, for hugging strangers and roaring in victory, is not safe from commercial dilution.

    TripADeal’s Cahill post has since been deleted, presumably after the social media reaction.

    This all seems a little moot when the team in question are forever referred to as the Caltex Socceroos.

    We watched him ascend to a new level of belovedness on Tuesday; and even if it was part of an advertising campaign he’s still our greatest player.

    Evan Morgan Grahame
    Evan Morgan Grahame

    Evan Morgan Grahame is a Melbourne-based journalist. Gleaning what he could from his brief career as a painter, the canvas of the football pitch is now his subject of contemplation, with the beautiful game sketching new, intriguing compositions every week. He has been one of The Roar's Expert columnists since 2016. Follow him on Twitter @Evan_M_G.