It’s a time of jubilation for the Canadian fan’s as they celebrate qualification for the World Cup finals in Qatar for only the second time in their history.
Leading the team to Qatar will be English born manager John Herdman and who is not only the second English manager to lead Canada to a World Cup, but he is the only manager to have led a women’s team and a men’s team to a major tournament.
Herdman is a rare breed of manager who has not enjoyed a professional footballing career before management and this became one of the reasons for him leaving the UK to search for opportunities elsewhere as he told Lancashire Live in an interview,
“I will never forget there was an ex-England player, who was at the time in the England youth coaching system, and I was coaching his son at Sunderland. I’ll never forget him.
“He stopped me, and said,
‘Look John, you’re a really good teaching-coach I wish I had the teaching skills you have but the one thing you’ll never have is that experience of standing in a field in front of 60,000 people.’ He went onto add ‘that’s why you’ll never get to the highest level.’
“it’s always stuck in the back of my mind. My God, I want to prove him wrong. I won’t name names, but it’s always stuck with me.”
But since the likes of Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez paved the way for academic managers to succeed in the English game he was asked if he would ever consider a job back in the UK?
“Of course, I’d harbour that dream of one day leading the club out of ‘St James’ Park’ as a local hero, what football manager that was born in the Northeast and who doesn’t support Sunderland dream of that.” Herdman replied.
Herdman and his players go into this tournament as massive underdogs, the only other time Canada made it to the World Cup finals they failed to win a single point and failed to score a single goal in a group that consisted of the USSR, Hungary and France.
However, the squad this time around is much stronger, with players like Alphonso Davies whose won four Bundesliga titles, one Super Cup, Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup with Bayern Munich and Cyle Larin who has scored 13 goals during the World Cup Qualifiers, with that calibre of players at their disposal the team are hoping to make this tournament a record breaking one.
Atiba Hutchinson who will lead out the players in Qatar spoke of his ‘pride and gratitude’ he feels every time he puts on that jersey as he told a Canadian breakfast show host,
“It’s something I’ve been dreaming about since I put on that jersey almost 20 years ago, but for it to finally happen at pretty much at the end of my career is amazing. We’ve put in so much time effort, had to go through hard times throughout this program and to see where we are now is just amazing, its hard to put into words really.”
He went onto explain the importance for him to be in Canada stating, “we are truly blessed.” He also added that Canada means the world to him.
Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan also spoke of his ‘gratitude’ when asked what Canada means to him telling the host,
“Canada gave me an easier life away from war and the hustle, and I’ve said this many times I wanted to give something back to Canada for many years, and now I think I have done that.”
Hutchinson and Borjan will be two of the most senior and experienced players that will feature for Canada in this tournament, with Hutchinson being the one to lead out his country when they come up against Belgium in their opening group game, it will certainly be a moment of pride and jubilation, an experience neither player will forget for many years to come, having waited so long to represent their country in the most prestigious tournament in world football this is their time to shine on the world stage.
The game against Belgium will be held at the Al Rayyan Stadium in Umm Al Afaei, Qatar on the 23rd of November kicking off at 7pm BST, before travelling to Doha to first face Croatia at the Khalifa International Stadium four days later, 4pm BST and finally playing Morocco at the Al Thumama Stadium also in Doha, kicking off at 3pm BST on the 1st of December.