Canada’s coach John Herdman admitted Monday that he was fearful during the pandemic sparked by concerns about the safety and well-being of his players and staff.

Herdman, 45, said that when it comes to pressure to perform, “that’s what I stand up for.” But the realities of running a program in the age of COVID-19 have taken their toll.

“It’s been an interesting year for mental health,” Herdman said at a virtual press conference. “I have to say that I went through anxiety attacks myself from October onwards.

“As a coach, if you signed up for these jobs when you started – before you even dreamed of being on an international level – when you just started working as a mass coach, the first thing you got into coaching was because you love to work.” with players, “he added.” But the most important thing is that you protect them.

“And I think that was one of the scariest parts of that job, it created such a level of fear that it asked you to go into an environment where if someone gets seriously ill, you don’t know if they are has intensive care units. They don’t know what beds are available. They don’t know if someone is worse or better when they are admitted to the hospital. “

Canada faces a trip to Haiti or Nicaragua, depending on what happens in a crucial World Cup qualifier against Suriname on Tuesday in Bridgeview, Illinois.

The Canadian men were forced to move their first two home games for World Cup qualification to the USA – in Orlando and Bridgeview – due to border problems caused by the pandemic. A game in the Cayman Islands has also been moved to Florida.

But if the Canadians tie or beat Suriname in suburban Chicago on Tuesday, they will face a home and away game that will have them go to either Port-au-Prince or Managua for a game on Sunday later this week.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists both Haiti and Nicaragua in their highest COVID-19 category, recommending travelers avoid the two countries, saying that even those who are fully vaccinated could be at risk of COVID- Get variants and spread them.

The Canadian government recommends avoiding all non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice.

And COVID aside, it recommends avoiding Haiti “due to the potential for unrest across the country.”

“The security situation could quickly deteriorate. The kidnappings of Haitians, dual citizens and foreigners in Port-au-Prince have increased equally in recent months,” a travel advisory said.

In Nicaragua too, Ottawa recommends “extreme caution” due to the volatile security situation.

The Canadian men’s program is back in action after missing almost all of 2020 due to the pandemic. Herdman is in the midst of World Cup qualifying and planning for the Gold Cup, which begins next month in the US

The men held camp in January 2020 and played three friendly games in California. The team didn’t get back together until January when Herdman took players to a camp in Florida.

The World Cup qualification, which was delayed due to COVID-19, finally began in March. It’s still running this fall and early next year.

Getting sick is even an issue in the United States, Herdman said.

“You’re dealing with people’s careers. If someone in the US gets sick (of COVID), they can’t just go home. He has to spend 14 days in the USA. t on a roster for 14 days when the coach told them you shouldn’t have gone anywhere.

“And we don’t know how sick people are going to get (if they get COVID)? So I’d say preparing for these games had a high level of fear.”

The good news is that Canada Soccer claims it only had two positive out of 1,726 COVID tests since January in its “controlled environment” in mid-May (both came from people who reported to the camp).

Canada Soccer says it has planned additional medical and security personnel for possible trips to Haiti or Nicaragua.

It is also difficult to be away from home, said Herdman, a father of two.

He commended his fellow Canadian footballers for their work to ensure everyone’s safety.

“People play roles they’ve never dreamed of? We’ve all come together to make sure our people are safe.”

No compromises were made on health and safety, he said, implying that some of the teams they faced didn’t. For example, the March game against the Cayman Islands in Bradenton, Florida was postponed for a day because the Cayman Islands team did not have the right tests for their players.

Defender Doneil Henry, who plays his club football in South Korea, said he felt safe given the arrangements made.

“I think everyone understands what it takes when you are in the camp now,” he said. “Everyone is just hardworking and safe. We are allowed to play football. Everyone does it with a smile on their face.”