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FIFA article: Hutch at home in Copenhagen


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Hutch at home in Copenhagen


Hutchinson has proved a big hit in Copenhagen.


(FIFA.com) 12 Dec 2006

Despite exiting the competition, FC Copenhagen - who eliminated Ajax in the preliminary rounds - made an impressive debut in the Champions League group stages, amassing a creditable seven points and even managing to beat Manchester United and Celtic and draw with Benfica while maintaining a remarkable unbeaten record at home.

During this inaugural campaign, few in the team from the Danish capital shone more brightly than their dynamic, box-to-box midfielder, Atiba Hutchinson. In a squad comprised almost primarily of native Scandinavians, it is safe to say that Hutchinson - the product of two Trinidadian parents and born in Canada - stands out in more ways than one. In fact, Atiba and Razak Pimpong of Ghana are the only players in the squad not born in Scandinavia.

Nevertheless, he distinguished himself in the Group F campaign with searing runs into attack and even grabbed himself a goal in the impressive 3-1 victory over already-qualified Celtic on the final matchday. In doing so, Hutchinson became only the second Canadian in history to score in the UEFA Champions League. Tomasz Radzinski holds the honour of being the first during his final season with Anderlecht in 2001 when he struck five times to help the Belgians emerge from their group section.

'Hutch', however, holds the distinction of being the first Canadian-born player to score in the competition, as Radzinksi is a naturalised Canuck, born in Poznan, Poland.

A northern trajectory

Born in Ontario, Hutchinson caught the eye early on with bags of pace and a skilful technique that reflected his roots in the Caribbean. At only 18 years of age and still in secondary school, he represented Canada at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina, where, unfortunately, the Canucks were returned home with no points to show for their efforts.

Once back in his homeland, the player turned down scholarship offers with top University sides in the US to try his luck with pro outfit Toronto Lynx of the now-defunct Canadian A-league. After only four games with the team - where he was used mainly as an attacking midfielder - the lure of Europe called him away. After successful trials with Osters IF in the Swedish top flight, he signed a contract at the start of 2003.

Just two months before, he had turned up with the Canadian U-20 national team for a second go at a FIFA U-20 World Cup, this time in the United Arab Emirates. He was determined to show his mettle as a lynchpin of the Canadian midfield, and thanks largely to his sturdy play, the Canucks ran through to the quarter-finals and only just missed out on the semis after losing to eventual finalists Spain in extra-time. His performances were such that Atiba - named to the UAE 2003's all-star eleven - earned trials with Udinese in Italy and courted interest from a number of other European clubs. He also made his senior debut with the full Canadian national that same year while still a teenager.

Deciding instead to stay in Sweden, where he had become something of a media darling, Atiba moved on to local powers Helinsgborgs IF following Osters' relegation before finally heading for FC Copenhagen - Danish champions four times out of the last six seasons - in January of 2006.

Bright future for Canada

In fine form for Copenhagen this season (which is now in its winter break with the capital club seven points clear at the top), Hutchinson, now 23, is a full fledged senior international for Canada (with over 20 caps and two goals) and a player well-equipped to help the side find some positive results in the CONCACAF region.

After qualifying for their one and only FIFA World Cup back in 1986, Canada have failed - with the notable exception of their 2000 Gold Cup title - to make waves on the international scene.

However, with a talented stable of players led by Hutchinson, Dwayne DeRosario, Iain Hume and Radzinski, the future is looking bright. Next year's Gold Cup - the CONCACAF region's championship - will take place in June, with the prize for the winner a place at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa. "We have a raft of very talented players like Atiba (Hutchinson)… and if we get our organisation down and play like we know we can, there is no reason we can't find a way to the top of the heap in CONCACAF," DeRosario - who recently won the MLS championship with Houston Dynamo - told FIFA.com.

If his performances in the 2006 Champions League and another rampaging run for Copenhagen in their domestic championship are anything to go by, the tireless Hutchinson may well be the key to a Canuck revival.

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