Cahill just being honest on HAL assessment

by Ben Somerford on Aug 02, 2012

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In the same week swimmer James Magnussen has gone from media darling to public enemy number one, Socceroo Tim Cahill has copped criticism from fans back home after comments he made on the standard of the A-League.

Yep, it's tough being a sportsperson these days. Not only do you need to perform on the park, or in the pool, you need to appease the public and not come across as an 'un-Australian' tosspot (for want of a better term).

Unfortunately for Cahill he's said something - or in Magnussen's case, not said enough – to upset the armchair pundits. Of course, those fans have every right to their opinion but sometimes we need to pause to think about being too critical.

Cahill's comments came as he was unveiled by new club New York Red Bulls on Tuesday in a press conference which went for almost half an hour (you can watch it here on New York's website).

The Aussie, alongside coach Hans Backe, had talked about Everton, the Premier League, playing alongside Thierry Henry, how the move developed and never joining a rival club in England. Fifteen minutes into the conference, he was asked about the A-League and he responded: "Moving to the A-League would have been a step backwards. And that's no disrespect,” Cahill said.

Unfortunately, for a lot of Aussie fans, there's no way to escape the “disrespect” of that statement (just ask Pim Verbeek) even with the disclaimer.

Cahill added: "It's basically, I want to still play at a high level. There's still another World Cup for me to play in and qualify for the Australian team, and this is a massive opportunity."

Rule number one for many A-League fans is don't talk down the competition. It's fodder for rival codes to rubbish 'soccer' but when it comes from one of its own, it's blasphemy!

Unfortunately, in my opinion, that viewpoint is pointless and essentially a “fairy land”. It's indicative of the sensitive nature of football in Australia and the immature way it deals with anything negative.

In my opinion, Cahill was simply being honest. He made it clear he wanted to play at the 2014 World Cup. He made it clear he'd watched a lot of MLS and liked what he saw. He also made it pretty clear he thought his time at Everton was up and didn't want to move elsewhere in England out of loyalty.

So when the offer to move to the Big Apple and play in a competition he believes can maintain his levels of performance ahead of Brazil 2014, he jumped at the chance.

The criticism which has come has been about that decision and how he expressed it on Tuesday. The “A-League is a backwards step for me” comment will leave a lot of people offside. I understand that. He could've been a bit more media savvy in the way he scripted that response.

However, criticism aimed at Cahill's decision is off the mark. He made it clear at the press conference his main priority was his football career and finding a league to help him get to play at another World Cup (the dream of any footballer). Second was his family, likely monetary and lifestyle factors.

The argument many Aussie fans have is, if playing at a decent level was his priority why pick the MLS over the A-League? Many forumites argued there's little between the two competitions. It's hard for me to comment on this as it's so subjective and I simply don't watch enough MLS, but many of my peers have assured me the USA league is far stronger than the A-League.

The easy argument is the MLS has the financial power to attract top coaches and foreign imports like Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, Alessandro Nesta, Arne Friedrich, Marco Di Vaio and David Beckham to boost the league.

But beyond that, it's not hard to agree with those saying the MLS is stronger when you consider USA's far greater talent pool, more advanced development system and the league's 10-year headstart on the A-League. Being able to mature and learn from criticism, or any semblance of negativity, is something I dare say the MLS has done in those 10 years and something we as A-League fans should pause to ponder.