Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Atiba Hutchinson Turns Heads as He Climbs the Ladder in World Soccer

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Atiba Hutchinson Turns Heads as He Climbs the Ladder in World Soccer

Article excerpt

Hutchinson the cream of Canadian soccer crop

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ALLISTON, Ont. - Watch Atiba Hutchinson from afar and his spindly pipe-cleaner legs don't look like they can support his lean six-foot-one body.

But the veteran Canadian midfielder, who plays his club football for Besiktas in Turkey, moves with purpose on the soccer field. A deceptive shuffle turns into a timely tackle. He finds the ball and then a teammate.

At a recent Canada practice, he received the ball in traffic and fought his way through defenders until he began to tip over. But as he went down, he didn't lose possession. Instead he turned as he began to fall, protecting the ball until he could get his legs under him again to keep going.

"Atiba is our best player," says Canadian coach Benito Floro. "He is the best player in Besiktas."

Floro, whose club coaching resume includes Real Madrid, is not alone. After seeing Hutchinson in action in against Arsenal in a Champions League playoff, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was equally taken by the Canadian.

"The best player on Besiktas?" Wenger said during the post-game news conference. "I was impressed by Hutchinson."

Mention the comment and Hutchinson looks bashful.

"Some people have told me about it," he said. "It's a very good compliment coming from one of the best coaches out there.

"It doesn't hurt to have my name come out of his mouth."

Hutchinson has drawn praise for years now. After seeing him at the CONCACAF under-20 championship back in 2002, then Canadian senior coach Holger Osieck said: "I am actually convinced -- and you know that I'm always pretty cautious in my predictions -- that he has the tools to play first division football in Europe."

Now 31, Hutchinson has done just that, building his career carefully starting in Scandinavia with Osters and Helsingborg in Sweden and FC Copenhagen in Denmark.

"I really enjoyed it. That's really where everything got started for me," said the native of Brampton, Ont. "I just kind of took the right steps."

Rather than moving to a big league or club where he might languish on the bench, Hutchinson moved to clubs that would use him.

"That helped me a lot, just learning the game really, playing with the first team and getting a lot of games," he said. …

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