AL RAYYAN, Qatar — Canada came armed to the World Cup.
During World Cup qualifying the Canadian men travelled with a sword which bears the words 'Nihil timendum est,' which is 'Fear Nothing' in Latin. And the sword has made its way to Qatar.
The finale of Canada Soccer's "Anything is Possible" documentary series shows captain Atiba Hutchinson complete with sword, surrounded by his teammates in a circle in the middle of the pitch at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Tuesday, the day before Canada's World Cup opener against Belgium.
"Dreams are all here in this stadium," said Hutchinson. "We're here now. Let's go and make the most of this. Let's put our country on the map. Let's all make each other proud, make our families proud, everybody that's behind us proud.
"We've worked so hard to be in this position here now. So let's go and take it tomorrow. Let's start flying. Let's fly for each. All right? Let's do it boys. Tomorrow."
Hutchinson then drives the sword into the turf to the cheers of his teammates, with injured goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau watching from afar via a phone.
The players then huddle up with a chorus of "brothers" on three.
In March, after the Canadians qualified for Qatar with a 4-0 win over Jamaica in Toronto, coach John Herdman explained that the sword was "something that symbolizes 'New Canada.'"
"I said to these boys (that) we've always had a shield. But we created a sword and on the sword it says 'Nihil timendum est,' which is 'Fear Nothing.' And that's New Canada. That's the swagger we want to play with. And it goes in into every stadium to symbolize we'll own their ground and be New Canada.''
The tradition was derailed during a trip to Central America to face Costa Rica in qualifying before the Jamaica win.
La Nacion, a Costa Rican newspaper, reported that customs officials had seized the sword upon the Canadian team's arrival by charter due to "regulations that govern the type of weapons that can enter our country.''
The newspaper ran a photo of the sword, a long two-handed weapon nestled in a black carrying case with a red interior. On the handle are the words Qatar 2022.
Without the sword, the Canadians saw their 17-game unbeaten streak in CONCACAF qualifying end in a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica. Canada played with 10 men for two-thirds of that match after midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye was sent off for a second yellow card.
But there was a happy ending.
"We've got it. We got it back. It was in that turf (at BMO Field),'' a happy Herdman said of the sword after the win over Jamaica.
The team had previously kept the existence of the sword to itself.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2022.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press