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Row over Aussie sports star’s travel agency gesture

October 16, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A dramatic goal celebration gesture, allegedly saluting an Australian travel agency, stirred controversy on Friday at the end of an exciting intercontinental World Cup football qualifying match in Sydney.

Australian soccer star Tim Cahill scored both of the Socceroos’ two goals in the match against Syria at ANZ stadium in Sydney.

Tension was nail-biting throughout, with the teams evenly matched, and fans only knew for sure in the final seconds that the Socceroos were still World Cup contenders.

But it was Cahill’s gesture just after his victory-clinching goal in extra time that has grabbed a lot of subsequent attention.

Cahill made a dramatic ‘T’ sign with his arms, which critics say appeared to promote online travel agency TripADeal, for which he is a brand ambassador.

World soccer’s governing body, FIFA, frowns on “sponsored” goal celebrations and Cahill’s efforts could land him in hot water.

Cahill’s 109th minute header – his 50th goal for his country – kept Australia in the running for the World Cup and sent the country through to an intercontinental playoff with Honduras.

Byron Bay-based travel company TripADeal asked followers on social media soon after the match ended if they had seen Cahill, their new brand ambassador, “doing the TripADeal ‘T’” at ANZ Stadium”.

“Always a pleasure,” Cahill responded on his Instagram account. “Another chapter written and plenty more to come. Amazing team performance and really proud of everyone tonight, team, staff and fans. #FEARLESS.” He then added four aeroplane emojis and tagged TripADeal.

Although the post has since been deleted, plenty of copies were made and are now doing the rounds.

TripADeal, founded in 2011 and based in Byron Bay on the NSW North Coast, is also a “premier partner” sponsor of Cahill’s Melbourne City FC (with Etihad the major sponsor).

TripADeal is a fast-rising star on the Australian travel agency scene. It won the Best Online Travel Agency award (Judged Category) in AFTA’s National Travel Industry Awards (NTIA) in July.

TripADeal creates competitively-priced, bucket-list travel packages, which it promotes aggressively through national digital and print channels. A couple of weeks ago, it entered into a ground-breaking partnership with Travellers Choice that will see Travellers Choice members serve as fulfilment partners and receive exclusive access to a range of unique TripADeal-curated travel packages. See: Travellers Choice and TripADeal forge ground-breaking partnership

The Guardian reported that while there’s nothing in Fifa regulations specifically barring players gesturing with their limbs to promote sponsors, Fifa disapproves and has sanctioned players in the past for advertising brands during games.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph says it’s not the first time Cahill’s exuberant goal celebrations have landed him in trouble. While playing with British team Everton in 2008, Cahill celebrated with a handcuff gesture – in solidarity with his older brother Sean, who had just received a six-year sentence for kicking a man during a brawl outside a taxi office in Bromley, southeast London.

Tim Cahill later apologised for the handcuff gesture.

Written by Peter Needham

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