Atiba Hutchinson: ‘There’s so much talent that goes unseen in Canada’

TORONTO — One of Canada’s most accomplished footballers still reflects back on a time when he had no choice but to go anywhere else in order to fulfill his dream of playing professionally.

Atiba Hutchinson recalls leaving Brampton, Ont. 15 years ago, long before the Canadian Premier League’s impending #GotGame Open Trials and inaugural 2019 season.

More than a decade after laying down roots in Europe, the Besiktas midfielder says the CPL will provide opportunities that simply weren’t there for previous generations of Canadian players.

“There’s so much talent that goes unseen in Canada and players who don’t really get to make it to the levels or places they’d like to,” Hutchinson said. “Just having that and having some good teams in a good league in Canada is something that has been needed for years. It will be great not only for the development of young players, but also for the national team.”

The CPL revealed Monday a list of dates and locations for its upcoming trials. Canadian soccer legend Alex Bunbury has been tasked with putting players through their paces in seven cities across Canada.

The coast-to-coast trials include stops in Halifax (Sept. 20-21), Montreal (Sept. 27-28), Hamilton (Oct. 1-2), Toronto (Oct. 11-12), Winnipeg (Oct. 18-19), Calgary (Oct. 25-26) and Vancouver Island (Nov. 5-6).

“Over the years I’ve seen the interest in Canada (with the MLS teams),” added Hutchinson, who has appeared 78 times for Canada, scoring six times amid earning numerous Canadian Men’s Player of the Year honours.

“For that to be spread around the country, I think will be great. I think the interest will continue to grow. It will start to stick. Having that base there is something we’ve needed. Fans will get more and more interested having games that are played at a high level week in, week out. The calibre of players will get better and better.”

For Hutchinson, more competitive minutes for more Canadian players will only serve to foster the development of numerous talented Canadians who have yet to be unearthed ahead of the CPL’s April 2019 kick-off.

“You need to be playing at a high level, playing professionally and just getting minutes week after week,” Hutchinson stressed.

“Having that in your own country and playing in different cities in Canada I think will be a great step for Canada in general.”

A new generation of Canadians are set to have what Hutchinson didn’t – a beacon to aspire to from the moment they’re introduced to the game.

“For me it was different not having anything in Canada to look forward to,” Hutchinson explained. “All of my vision and dreams were to go and play abroad in Europe.

“But having something in your home would be massive,” he continued. “Just having dreams of playing professionally is a good start … As I said, the league will get better and better. It’s a building process. I think it will be massive.”