Not Pepe, not Kawashima, not Dani Alves. The oldest player at the World Cup in Qatar will be Canadian Atiba Hutchinson, 39 years and 285 days old at the time of the final tournament debut. The Maple Leaf midfielder is 18 days older than Pepe, a month and a half older than Japan’s Elji Kawashima, and almost three months older than Dani Alves, who becomes the oldest Brazilian present at a World Cup this winter.
Atiba Hutchinson made his first appearance at a World Cup at almost 40 years of age. That’s because his country’s national team hasn’t been to the World Cup since 1986 when they were the worst of the 24 teams taking part. Back then, however, the Canadian midfielder was just over three years old.
Nearing his 20th birthday since making his debut for Canada in January 2003, Atiba Hutchinson became a key player for a North American team that starred in CONCACAF preliminaries for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and made history by leading his country to a second World Cup.
He was born in Brampton, Ontario, but his parents are from Trinidad and Tobago, so he could have represented the Caribbean country as well, but he’s on track to reach 100 caps for the Maple Leaf senior national team, has also been part of the U-20 and U-23 squads.
Hutchinson began playing in Canada’s professional soccer league, never imagining he would make the jump to Europe, where he will spend most of his career. In 2003, he started playing in Sweden, then moved to Denmark to FC Copenhagen, and in 2010 made the jump to PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands before arriving at Besiktas JK, where he currently plays and where he also became team captain.
His performances as a midfielder, his natural talent, and his leadership cannot be doubted. He was voted Canada’s best footballer six times, in 2006, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Since making his debut for Canada’s national team, Atiba Hutchinson has played in World Cup qualifiers for Germany in 2006, South Africa in 2010, Brazil in 2014, Russia in 2018, and Qatar in 2022. March 27, 2022 is a date to remember for the Canadians, who have qualified for the World Cup after a 36-year absence. Toronto’s BMO Field was the scene of a 4-0 win over Jamaica, and Canada became the first CONCACAF nation to qualify, ahead of Mexico and the United States.
“I’ve spent the last few days searching for the right words to say to all of you, to describe the feelings and emotions I have at this moment. Some of you have supported us from the beginning. I thank you for always keeping the faith. There have been some dark moments, but you know what they say: it is always darkest before dawn. And this is the beginning of a new era in Canadian football. We will wear that maple leaf with pride and honour,” Atiba Hutchinson wrote on social media after the historic World Cup qualification.
During the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers, Atiba Hutchinson played in 10 matches. She missed three matches due to injury and one match due to yellow card accumulation. He scored twice, once in the first leg against El Salvador and once in the return leg against the same team.