“I could always see the flickering in the hallways… of Premier League football, World Cups and things like that,” he tells Jane Hutcheon on this week’s One Plus One.
He was in awe of professional players back then and still is now — not many footballers collect their opponents’ jerseys as memorabilia.
“I am someone that appreciates talent,” he says.
“You think about how hard it is to get on that stage, and then you actually look, when you’re lining up in a tunnel and I’m standing next to Cristiano Ronaldo, I’m standing next to Wayne Rooney, Roy Keane and I’m thinking to myself ‘Wow, I’ve made it’.
“But then there’s no way I’m coming off this pitch without one of their jerseys.”
Cahill’s name is synonymous with football in Australia.
The 38-year-old is one of the few players to score a goal at three different World Cups, and is an Everton legend after playing with the club for almost a decade in the English Premier League.
He also had a stint in the United States with the New York Red Bulls and Shanghai Shenhua and currently plays for Millwall of England. in the burgeoning Chinese Super League.
“Coming from Australia, living in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Sydney, New York and then Shanghai, I’ve treated it as an adventure,” he explains.
“I’ve embraced the culture, the food, the people, the lifestyle.”
But with all that adventure, Cahill is constantly aware of the sacrifices his family made for him to follow his dreams.
When he was 16, his parents took out a loan to finance a trip to London for their son to try out in the UK. His brother also left school to get a job to help with the finances.
“Still to this day, there’s not a day that I don’t think about that. I call it the beautiful scar,” he said.
When Cahill arrived in England he stayed with family until he was signed by Millwall on a transfer from Sydney United.
In his book ‘Legacy’, he writes that he sent the 5,000 pounds signing-on fee straight home to repay his brother and parents. The family then made its first-ever deposit on a house.