Atiba Hutchinson gets extra push from #CanadaRED crowd
Posted on 31 December 2016 in Men's National Team
It was a record-setting crowd at BC Place on 25 March 2016, the largest crowd for a national team event - of any sport - ever held in Canada. As part of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifiers, Canada Soccer's Men's National Team drew a record 54,798 fans to a home match in Vancouver against CONCACAF's reigning champions Mexico.
It was the second time the Men's National Team had enjoyed such a large crowd at home, but the first time in more than 20 years since Canada drew 1:1 with soon-to-be FIFA World Cup champions Brazil in the summer of 1994. That record of 51,936 stood for 21 years until it was broken three times in Edmonton and Vancouver by the home team at the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015.
Canada Soccer's national teams have enjoyed growing support in recent years, something that the players have appreciated immensely. Just ask Atiba Hutchinson, the 2016 Canadian Player of the Year that said playing in front of the 29 March crowd was one of his favourite moments from the past year.
"To get those crowds out and the support that they (our fans) have given us during FIFA World Cup Qualifying games at home, it was something that I really didn't get to experience in the past," said Hutchinson, the 33-year old midfielder who has now taken part in four cycles since 2003. "It was nice. As a player you really felt like you had that 12th man which Canada has always needed, that extra push and to feel confident that no one can come into your home and win. I think that is what every other country has in place, that home support.
"That was something very amazing for me."
Atiba Hutchinson: "I couldn't have done this w/o my teammates at both club & country who've always supported & motivated me to be my best." pic.twitter.com/wiIOyKvB4n— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) December 17, 2016
On the heels of another stellar season, Hutchinson was named Canada Soccer's men's Player of the Year for a record fifth time. He was again in top form for both club and country, notably leading Beşiktaş JK to their first Turkish Süper Lig title in seven years. That 2015-16 title helped Beşiktaş qualify for the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League season, with Hutchinson playing every minute and wearing the captain's armband in home draws against Dynamo Kyiv and SSC Napoli.
A nominee for the CONCACAF Awards best midfielder, the Brampton footballer is a hero to fans in both Canada and Turkey, where he has played since July 2013.
"Over the last year, it was a special year for me and the club: to win a championship after so many years," said Hutchinson. "Things went well and the fans were behind us from the get to go. We didn't have (our) stadium ready at the time (start of the season), so we were kind of playing all over the place, but we found a way to do it. To win a championship in this country, in Turkey, is very special. That is a great memory that I will have with me for the rest of my life."
Nearly midway through the 2016-17 season, Hutchinson and his club teammates are eying another run for the Turkish title. Beşiktaş will start the 2017 calendar year just one point back of Süper Lig leaders İstanbul Başakşehir F.K., with the 34-week season wrapping up on 28 May. Through 16 weeks, the top four teams are İstanbul (36 points), Beşiktaş (35), Galatasaray (33), and Fenerbahçe (31).
"They say it is the toughest thing to go back to back, so we are just going to have to continue to do what we have been doing over course of the past few years," said Hutchinson. "We have been taking the right steps. I think we have a team that is ready to win another championship. We have been gelling and like I always say, it is important to stay consistent because you can't have too many dips in your team during the season. If we can continue to show consistency, we will have a chance to win."
Canada's next home match is 4 February 2017 when the Women's National Team faces Mexico at BC Plce in Vancouver. Tickets for Bronze Medal Celebration Match are on sale now via canadasoccer.com/tickets starting at just $20 (plus applicable fees).