Born and raised in Brampton, the 35-year-old soccer star, Atiba Hutchinson, has made his name primarily in Istanbul, where he is beginning his sixth season in the Turkish Super League as a midfielder for Besiktas JK. As a measure of his fame in Turkey, where he played a key role in Besiktas’s run to league championships in 2016 and 2017, Hutchinson’s Instagram account boasts 486,000 followers, the most of any Canadian soccer pro and more than plenty of athletes who are household names in these parts, among them Thornhill-raised tennis pro Milos Raonic (371,000) and Scarborough-bred Olympic sprinting medallist Andre De Grasse (225,000). Even Hutchinson’s three-year-old son, Noah, has celebrity status in Turkey, his smiling cuteness a fixture on the feeds of that country’s rabid soccer enthusiasts. When Hutchinson’s Brampton-based parents, Dalton and Myrtle, make their regular visits to Turkey to see their son play, they’re often ushered past the airport throngs like dignitaries.


“Once they recognize Atiba’s name, anybody connected to him that’s travelling, they just get the royal treatment all the way,” Myrtle Hutchinson said recently. “It’s nice. I don’t get it here. But we get it there. And I don’t need it. But it’s him. He’s treated differently over there.”


And yet when Hutchinson returns to his home and native land, he resides in relative obscurity. Never mind that he’s a national team staple who has been named the Canadian Soccer Association’s player of the year a record six times, including the past four seasons. Never mind that earlier this year Hutchinson passed Tomasz Radzinski for the most matches played by a Canadian in the UEFA Champions League, when Besiktas made it to the round of 16, losing to Bayern Munich. Hutchinson, who began his pro career with stints in Sweden, Denmark and Netherlands before a 2013 move to Besiktas, simply isn’t as well-known in Canada.