Canada’s World Cup sword explained: ‘A symbol of brotherhood on a significant international quest’

When Canada kicked off their 2022 World Cup, they did so by sticking a sword into the ground.

Yes, this Canadian team travels with a sword that was dreamed up by coach John Herdman as a means of embodying this team’s fighting spirit, and on the night before Wednesday’s spirited loss to Belgium, they did as they do before every game in the final round of World Cup qualifiers cup and pushed a sword into the center of the field where they were to play.

Why do they do it?

The Sword is the most memorable of John Herdman’s unorthodox methods of team building and personal inspiration. He played with other medieval imagery, from shields that symbolized the need to defend with purpose and helmets that could only see ahead to symbolize sticking to the task at hand.

But it’s the sword that resonates because, as Herdman said after Canada qualified for the World Cup, it represents “the grit we want to play with.”

During the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, Canada’s ritual was as follows: the team would gather in a circle the night before the game in the half of the stadium in which they were to play. A member of the team would take the sword, and after a short speech intended to inspire the group, would drive the sword into the field. Herdman wanted the team to believe they would “own their pitch,” as he said after the qualifier, and for most of the qualifier, Canada did just that.

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Where is the sword from? What’s writen?

Before the final round of qualifying, Toronto-based swordsmith Steve Karakostas received a vague email tasking him with creating a sword “as a fraternity symbol of significant international demand.”

Karakostas was skeptical that this sword was actually for Canada’s men’s national team, until a visit to their hotel room during the qualifiers convinced him, and he got to work.

The sword is emblazoned with the words “Qatar 2022” and, more importantly, the Latin phrase “Nihil timendum est” or “Fear nothing.”

It’s that phrase that epitomizes the team’s all-out, hard-hitting approach and a new bravado that has long been missing from the psyche of Canadian men’s soccer.

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“That’s been our symbol this whole trip,” midfielder Jonathan Osorio said Athletic in the mix zone after the loss to Belgium. “Of course we had to get it out of here. It symbolizes the warrior (spirit) of our team. This is our weapon. This represents our ambition.”

How did they get it through customs?! And who brings him on board?

It’s not clear how the team got it through customs, but they were able to get it into other Central American countries through qualification.

“It’s done,” Osorio said with a smile.

When the sword isn’t being used in pregame talks, it resides in the team hotel meeting room.

What happened in Costa Rica?

Canada suffered just two losses in the final round of World Cup qualifying. The second came in Panama after Canada had already qualified. But the first came in Costa Rica. Canada had a chance to qualify, but as we learned the day after their 1-0 loss, Costa Rican customs wouldn’t allow the sword into the country.

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The next morning, a Costa Rican news agency ran a story that turned the world on to Herdman’s latest tactic to boost team spirit at the time.

You could call Canada’s loss to Costa Rica pure coincidence because they didn’t carry the sword with them, of course.

After the loss, Karakostas told the Toronto Star, “I’m not a superstitious person, but then I might be.”

How did they get it into Qatar?

Bringing the sword into the country is probably not an overnight process. We know Herdman is meticulous in his planning, and in order for the sword to get through customs, he and the rest of the Canadian outfit probably started planning for it some time after qualifying.

We probably haven’t seen the last of Qatar’s sword.

“It goes into every stadium to symbolize that we’re going to own their field and we’re going to be New Canada,” Herdman said in March.

(Photo: Getty Images)


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