On Tuesday 17 July 2018, Socceroos legend Tim Cahill announced his retirement from international football. As the Australian football community responded to the news, Professional Footballers Australia CEO John Didulica penned this tribute to Cahill’s remarkable contribution.

This year’s World Cup in Russia will be remembered for a myriad of reasons.

But perhaps, above anything else, this year’s tournament reemphasised one thing; that a nation’s psyche can be truly impacted by defining moments within the game of football. 

For Croatia, a nation smaller in size than Victoria and ravaged by war less than 30 years ago, reaching a first ever final has brought a shared experience for its people – spread across the globe – matched only by its proclamation of independence.

Each country has its unique moment where football creates a shared experience that is transcendental.

For me, in the context of Tim Cahill’s retirement on Tuesday, there is no more defining moment than a surreal 8-minute period on a baking afternoon in Germany on 12 June 2006.

Tim’s emergence on the international scene arrived years before and continued 12 years afterwards in a career punctuated in equal parts by the dramatic and the spectacular.

But two swipes of his right boot in Kaiserslautern that afternoon, in front of the largest exodus of people from Australia since World War II, did more to shift the axis of football toward the mainstream of Australia and demonstrate the seismic power of football than anything before or after.

It surpassed that night in Sydney against Uruguay. It was transformational for a sport that had just launched a professional competition and needed to build a unity of purpose across a fractured sport.

Through that performance, Tim represented what It meant to play for the Socceroos; to punch above your weight and deliver extraordinary outcomes.

This was Tim’s unique characteristic; he created it and personified it.

There are few other players who have made such an impact when the gravity and pressure of a match is so great, few players who stand up to the occasion, like Tim.

His goals, his innate timing, defined his mentality, courage and impact. He always found something extra in the big moment; when expectations were at their highest, he rose higher, often literally.

He soared above the world’s premier central defender at the time, Nemanja Vidić, to lead Australia to its second ever World Cup win against Serbia in 2010.

In 2014 he etched his name alongside an exclusive list of players to have scored in three World Cup tournaments, then executed a breathtaking volley against the Netherlands. Replays still leave you leaping from your seat.

He inspired the Socceroos to Asian Cup triumph on home soil to claim the Socceroos’ first international trophy, then, clearly managing fatigue, scored a 109th minute extra-time winner to help send the Socceroos to a fifth World Cup, with a magical double against Syria.

Tim set goals and then set about smashing records. He finished with 107 appearances and 50 goals. As impressive as those number are, they are only part of the story. When Australian football carves its Mount Rushmore for those who have inspired our sport, Tim’s face will be one of the first immortalised.

Tim, we thank you.