If one Canadian player deserves to feature in his nation's return to the World Cup, it's Atiba Hutchinson.
The CanMNT are preparing to open their first World Cup campaign since 1986, facing a highly-fancied Belgium side at Al Rayyan Stadium on Wednesday.
Set to start as captain in midfield is the veteran Atiba Hutchinson who, if he does indeed play, will pick up his 99th cap for Canada.
Hutchinson has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in Canadian men's soccer in his almost two-decade-strong stint with the national team and, surely, there's no better way for him to end his international career.
By the time Wednesday rolls around, Hutchinson will be 39 years, nine months, and 15 days old, which would put him into the top 10 oldest players ever to feature at a World Cup, just ahead of Argentina's Ángel Labruna (39 years, 8 months, 18 days).
10 oldest players to appear at the FIFA World Cup
- Essam El-Hadary (45 years, 5 months, 10 days)
- Faryd Mondragon (43 years, 3 days)
- Roger Milla (42 years, 1 month, 8 days)
- Pat Jennings (41 years)
- Peter Shilton (40 years, 9 months, 19 days)
- Dino Zoff (40 years, 4 months, 13 days)
- Ali Boumnijel (40 years, 2 months, 10 days)
- Jim Leighton (39 years, 10 months, 30 days)
- David James (39 years, 10 months, 26 days)
- Ángel Labruna (39 years, 8 months, 18 days)
“I didn’t think I was going to continue [playing for Canada], and somehow I’m still here,” Hutchinson said prior to the tournament. “Obviously, the World Cup is right around the corner, so I think the closer I get to it it’s gonna be obviously a very special moment. It’s something I’ve been dreaming about my whole life.”
Naturally, Hutchinson has proved an inspiration for his younger Canadian teammates as well, both for his international career and success with the likes of PSV, Besiktas, and FC Copenhagen.
“His journey has been truly incredible,” star man Alphonso Davies said of Hutchinson’s career. “Him being that age, still being able to play the way he does, it just goes to show you that he takes care of his body and does the right things off the pitch. I think he deserves to be at the World Cup.”
CF Montreal midfielder Samuel Piette added: "He's one of the... not even the best footballer in Canada I would say, but one of the best athletes that Canada has had. And I don't think people realize it how good and how important he was for this team, for this country.”
Let's hope Hutchinson gets the long-awaited World Cup debut he's dreamed of for so long.