From the moment we first saw you play for Canada in January 2003, we were sure of one thing:
We fell in love with your game.
You led us through the dark times
When no one believed
And inspired a country with hope.
Every time you’ve donned the national team crest
You’ve given your all.
We don’t know how much you’ve got left to give
But we’ll cherish every last moment there is.
If that was your last game for the team in Canada
We’re glad we all witnessed it
And your World Cup dream come true.
You’ve given us our childhood dream
Of seeing Canada at a World Cup.
We’ll forever be grateful to you for all that you’ve done.
A-TI-BA! A-TI-BA! A-TI-BA! These were the chants that echoed around BMO Field in unison amongst the sellout crowd of 29,122 this past Sunday. The serenading of our Canadian men’s national team captain, Atiba Hutchinson, started the moment he was substituted onto the field in the 62nd minute, and again multiple times after the game had ended. This showcased just how much Atiba has meant to the fans and the CanMNT program.
At 39 years of age, Atiba is set to become second oldest outfield player to ever play at a World Cup. For him to still be competing at such a high level with both Canada and Besiktas is simply astounding. It’s important to remember that in 2018, Atiba seriously contemplated retirement from the CanMNT. Conversations with John Herdman ultimately helped change his mind. Qualifying for the World Cup with anyone other than Atiba as captain would have definitely not felt the same.
Quiet. Composed. Fearless. Leader. Mentor. These are often the words coaches and teammates use when describing Atiba. In many ways, Atiba’s personality and presence has been the stabilizing force for the rest of the CanMNT. He serves as the perfect contrast to the youthful exuberance of the up and coming core of the team, and to Milan Borjan’s more passionate and vocal leadership style.
Despite the turbulence he experienced with injuries and mismanagement within the CanMNT program over the course of his career, he was always the one constant throughout. His commitment and dedication to Canada never wavered regardless of the circumstances. He embodies the principles of brotherhood that John Herdman has been trying to implement throughout the team - loyalty, self-belief and togetherness. Atiba represents the foundation that Herdman can build from, and can be a golden example for future Canadian footballers looking to break into the senior first team.
I’ve been blessed to do some really cool things during my short time on @breakfasttv. Getting the chance to talk to Atiba Hutchinson and Milan Borjan the day after Canada qualified for the World Cup is right up there. pic.twitter.com/Jt4wQWhkHH— Sid Seixeiro (@Sid_Seixeiro) March 28, 2022
On Breakfast Television, Atiba mentioned, “Representing Canada means everything. Everything. Without the CanMNT, it would have been difficult for me to get my foot into the door in Europe. Canada means the world to me. I’m grateful every time I put on that jersey and extremely proud to be representing this country.”
Well Atiba, we hope this tribute shows our eternal gratitude for you. No matter what happens next, we’ll always remember that you played a huge role in getting us to our second ever World Cup. Your legacy will extend far beyond your playing days. You are a Canadian icon that we are proud to call one of our own. The North remembers.