Atiba Hutchison Leads The Way For Soccer's Growth In Canada

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One of Canada’s greatest players, Atiba Hutchison has always quietly gone about his business. 

Climbing the ladder of European football throughout his career, the Ontario native has amassed an impressive amount of accolades and has been a mainstay for the Canucks as they’ve elevated the status of the game in a land known for its prowess in winter sports.

Birthplace: Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Years active: 2005-current

Clubs: York Region Shooters, Toronto Lynx, Öster, Helsingborg, Copenhagen, PSV, Besiktas

Notable Achievements: Canadian Footballer of the Year (six times), Danish Super Liga Player of the Year (2009-2010,) Danish Super Liga champion (four times), Danish Cup winner, Royal League winner, Dutch Cup winner, Dutch Super Cup winner, Danish Super Liga Player of the Year (2009-2010,) Turkish Süper Lig champion (two times)

With superb vision, composure, and precise passing and ball-winning ability, Hutchison has excelled throughout multiple leagues in Europe. Despite his success, he has never been one of the most acclaimed athletes in his home nation. That’s an outright shame, because his accomplishments speak for themselves and his longevity at the top puts him in a class of his own. His international debut came at just 19 years of age, and only one player has notched more appearances for the Canucks than Hutchison (84).

Learn more about Hutchinson's story playing the game in Canada.

Brief stints for the York Region Shooters and Toronto Lynx got his professional career going. At the age of 19 he made his move across the pond to Swedish outfit Östers and hit the ground running with his sights set on using each and every opportunity to progress to the next level. It took exactly one season — a solid one at that with 24 appearances and six goals — to earn a move to Helsingborg.

“That helped me a lot, just learning the game really, playing with the first team and getting a lot of games,” Hutchison told the Canadian Press concerning his start in Scandanavia. “I kind of look at it like climbing the ladder. That’s exactly what I did. Every club I went to was a bit bigger and better than the previous club.”

It became apparent that Hutchison was a man made for the big occasion when he arrived at Copenhagen in 2006. It was in Denmark where he got his first crack at making an impression in the Champions League, and that he did with 10 starts in the competition. He continued to develop his game at Copenhagen through the late 2000s, and in 2010 he became the first Canadian to be named the Danish Super Liga Player of the Year, once again securing a move to a higher-profile club and league. On April 22 he signed for Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven, where he first filled in as a right back and quickly impressed both domestically and in the Europa League.

If there was any reason to doubt his ability or trajectory at that point, it quickly evaporated following the final and biggest step of his career. When players hit and go north of the age of 30, thoughts begin to arise concerning where and how they’ll eventually hang up the boots. Many in the modern game elect to make moves for the sake of one last payday while taking a step down in terms of the level of play. 

Hutchison had no such intentions.

Wherever he goes, Hutchinson is a fighter.

Hutchison let his performances do the talking and quickly became a fan favorite for Turkish giants Besiktas, where he has led the side as captain to two league titles and an appearance in the last 16 of the Champions League. Integral to his consistency for club and country has been his versatility. The ability to thrive as both a defensive midfielder and on the back line — even playing as a striker on occasion — has made Hutchison an invaluable component of his squads over the years, even more so for Canada given the fact that he has played for so many different coaches.

After taking a year-long break from the national team, Hutchison made a welcomed return during Nations League qualifiers and was subsequently called up for the Gold Cup. This summer’s tournament brought the latest opportunity to take advantage of his experience and flexibility, and he played in the center of the park and at the back while starting three of four matches — the lone exception was the final group game where Canada thumped Cuba 7-0.

Canada haven’t qualified for the World Cup since 1986, which has resulted in a lack of exposure for a lot of the quality players they’ve produced over the years. That’s been changing in recent years, however, with players such as Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich), Lucas Cavallini (Puebla), Mark-Anthony Kaye (Los Angeles FC), and Jonathan David (Gent) making splashes.

The side is certainly on the right path toward challenging Mexico and the United States with a wealth of talented youngsters, but Atiba Hutchison will forever hold his place in Canada lore due to his time abroad and service to the national team. He could very well be a pivotal veteran presence in guiding less experienced players in the upcoming Concacaf Nations League.

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