Tim Cahill will captain the Socceroos against South Africa in their farewell friendly on Monday and handing the armband to the veteran in the absence of Mile Jedinak is a fitting reward for his dedication.
Cahill, 34, is by far the biggest star in a youthful Australia squad and both his popularity and generosity were evident at the team's fan day on Saturday, when the New York Red Bulls man stayed behind for well over an hour after training finished to satisfy the enormous demand for autographs and pictures.
It was a long and winding road to international fame for Cahill, who had to fight to change allegiance from Samoa to Australia and grafted hard for Millwall before becoming a Premier League goal-machine with Everton.
But all that was beyond the wildest expectations of a kid who turned out for the likes of Balmain Police Boys Club and Marrickville Football Club while growing up in Sydney.
"My dream was just to be a professional footballer," he said.
"To be sitting here, third World Cup, to be a part of it and potentially go to Brazil is something that is very special.
"I treat every day as if it's my last, my biggest [objective] was to be part of the Socceroos for as long as possible and contribute.
“In what form? Any way possible.
"I've always made it know how much I love playing for my country. You can only do that by playing well ... keeping yourself at the top of your game.
"My drive on and off the park is football and family and that's all that matters to me and that's why I'm sitting here today, so I'm very proud."
Cahill, appointed joint vice-captain alongside Mark Bresciano, feels Ange Postecoglou's bold approach since taking over has given him a new lease on life at international level.
"Mainly everything's about education with the youngsters," he said.
"Letting them know that every training [session], everything we do, the way that we play tomorrow and how can leave that intent in people's mind that we're going to the World Cup to really make a great account of ourselves.
"It's probably the most revitalising period of my career. I want to enjoy every minute."
Send Off the Socceroos
Socceroos vs South Africa, presented by NAB
Monday 26 May 2014 ANZ Stadium, Sydney Kick-off: 7.30pm
Tickets from $30, including public transport. Buy now!
ABC Grandstand will have live coverage of the match from 1900-2135 AEST on ABC Grandstand Digital across Australia, online and via the phone app.
You can also tune in on digital SBS Radio 3 and SBS Radio 4, Digital TV, online at sbs.com.au/radio or via the SBS Your Language App.
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