Australia’s leading goalscorer, Everton legend, New York Red Bulls Designated Player. Those are all labels that can be put on Tim Cahill. However, there is one other that he continues to cultivate: Grassroots Activist.
For the past four years, Cahill has been working in his homeland to encourage participation in the game and impact the development of young athletes via an academy program taking place in several locations across Australia, including Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane, among others.
The work Cahill has put in during his offseasons continues to pay off as the program grows. Cahill now shares ownership of the academy program with FOXTEL, the Australian television company which is a joint venture of News Corp (FOX) and Telstra (TEL).
The partnership has almost surely allowed for the FOXTEL All-Stars Academy to reach youth players that didn’t participate and even help coaches around the Australian continent.
“Now we have our own show on Disney and from that we give a free program that we encourage participation and also fundamental skills for [ages] six to 11,” Cahill told SoccerWire.com after a recent Red Bulls training session.
The show aired on the Disney Channel Australia website, where each episode featured one young player from one of the academy sites.
Each individual was given a skills challenge they would have to master, with the episode’s runtime about three minutes long. A taste of the show can be seen here.
It’s between the ages of six to 11 that Cahill believes participation and development can be the most affected. It is an area that he feels isn’t adequately tapped in his home country, and he hopes to excite kids about the sport and hopefully produce the next generation of players for the Socceroos.
“It’s somewhere in Australia where I feel it’s a missed chance for kids, where I feel sentimental putting my time and expertise as a professional and also with top coaches to produce the next stars for Australian football,” said Cahill.
With the success of the academy in Australia, there may be opportunities to take the program and make it more global. Currently, the program is starting to break into the Chinese and Indian markets, noted Cahill.
With the Australian international currently plying his trade stateside in Major League Soccer with the Red Bulls, the academy could possibly find its way to this side of the world. However, there are no official plans as of yet.
“I don’t know yet. The United States is a big place, obviously,” he noted. “[We’re] definitely talking and working with people here to expand.”
Although a full-fledged academy program hasn’t unfolded at this time, the work Cahill has put in will still be showcased in the United States.
His efforts in Australian grassroots soccer will be put on display when two teams are expected to travel to the Disney Cup this summer.
The international tournament will be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex July 14-19. Although the tournament has been run for 15 years, the 2014 iteration will be the first to feature an Australian entrant.
“We’re starting with bringing two teams, selected girls and boys 12 years old, to the Disney Cup so we’ll be the first Australian team to enter into that,” said Cahill.