Like his former Everton teammate, Cahill knows what it feels like to be burdened with being labeled the shining hope for a non-traditional footballing nation where soccer is still fighting for respect on the international stage. And he knows what it’s like carrying the weight of his nation on his shoulders on the biggest stage of the World Cup.
But the Australian star says that burden is a blessing – and perhaps Donovan needs to keep that in mind.
“Listen, I’m blessed to be a footballer,” the New York Red Bulls Designated Player told reporters after Saturday’s third-place match at the Desert Diamond Cup. “All I can say is people have to get up and go to work at 5 in the morning, like my parents. I always forget the hardship of people, what they go through mentally.”
Donovan is currently on an extended break from soccer – both at the club and international level – after saying he was burned out on the game and needed time away from it. The all-time leading scorer in US national team history has essentially played professional soccer non-stop since the age of 16 and hasn’t always been comfortable with the label of being the greatest player in American history.
Cahill’s career, meanwhile, has many parallels to Donovan’s. He is the all-time leading scorer for Australia in World Cups, and scored the Socceroos’ first-ever goal in a World Cup in 2006. He first moved to England as a 17-year-old and became a standout for Millwall before moving to Everton in 2004, where he became a club legend.
But where Donovan apparently has found discomfort with those kinds of expectations, Cahill has embraced it.
“You’ve got to put things in perspective,” he said. “[Donovan’s] got the world on his shoulders. It’s not a bad thing to have on your shoulders, is it? … It’s a compliment when everything’s thrown at you. When something goes wrong, it’s your fault.”
Cahill doesn’t fault Donovan for wanting to reevaluate, however. And if his head isn’t in the right place, then perhaps he’s right to take a sabbatical to reexamine his life.
“You have to question why you play football,” he said. “If it’s not for the right reasons, then stop. But if it is, then continue. He’s a good kid. He knows what he can do and what he can’t do, so I would just look at putting life into perspective. We’ve got a great job in the MLS. That’s the way I look at things.”