SYDNEY (AP) — Veteran Socceroos midfielder Tim Cahill has criticized Football Federation Australia for the sport's lack of grassroots appeal, the state of the domestic A-League and its handling of marquee players such as former Juventus star Alessandro Del Piero.
The 36-year-old Cahill, who was released by Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua this week, said he considered returning to the A-League, but says the competition's lack of vision would only hurt his career.
He was most critical of the FFA's handling of the national team, which has not had a major sponsor for three years.
"We've played in three World Cups and we don't really have anything to show for it," Cahill told News Corp Australia newspapers on Friday. "Every time I go back, it's mayhem. You don't understand how that makes me feel, but at the moment the game is in a bit of a rut."
A number of international stars have played in Australia since the introduction of the A-League in 2005, including Del Piero, Dwight Yorke and Shinji Ono. But Cahill says none of the marquee players were used to correctly promote the game.
"Del Piero was one of the biggest things to ever happen to the game, but also the worst because it wasn't capitalized on," Cahill said. "A guest stint for anyone can only harm you and coming back without any sort of plan and substance is always a recipe for disaster.
"I've seen the record with short-term goals of going back to the A-League and the destruction that it's had on top player's careers who have come back to finish there."
Cahill also said the Australian federation is holding the sport back by not putting more emphasis on the next generation through junior programs.
"We have the lifestyle, the great schools, great cities and multiculturalism," he said. "The only thing we don't have is investment in the game."
FFA chief executive David Gallop said Friday that several A-League teams, with the FFA's assistance, tried to contact Cahill after his contract was terminated in China.
"We would love to have Tim in the A-League and we were very clear about our vision, our confidence in the league," Gallop said. "We have our four-year strategy in place, which is very much about the quality in competition, the growth that will give us and the financial stability that will give us and we must responsibly and prudently invest our funds."
The former Millwall and Everton forward has played 88 internationals for Australia, scoring 45 goals, including one in each of the last three World Cups.
Australia leads its qualifying group midway through the second round of Asian qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. If it advances to Russia, Cahill could be considered for his fourth consecutive tournament final.