Skip to content

Herdman regrets going to World Cup with Canada after sister's suicide

Candice Ward/USSF / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Find the biggest stories from across the soccer world by visiting our Top Soccer News section and subscribing to push notifications.

John Herdman, the coach who guided Canada to the men's World Cup for the first time in 36 years, wishes he resigned from the position before the tournament commenced so he could mourn the death of his sister.

Herdman's sister committed suicide in May 2022, between Canada securing its qualification for the tournament in March and traveling to Qatar to compete later that year. As the World Cup neared, Herdman found it hard to cope.

"I had just lost my sister to suicide, and it really, really hurt and it was for a period of time. I've never been hurt like that," he told CBC Sports' Anastasia Bucsis on the "Player's Own Voice" podcast. "I'd always been the fixer in my family, and I couldn't fix it. So coming out with World Cup qualification, it was like the highest high, then down to the worst experience that I had in my life.

"I had a decision to make in June (2022), and I went against my instinct," he said, adding, "I shouldn't have went."

Herdman felt he could've done more to support his sister in the past.

"She'd reached out for help when I was at the Gold Cup (in 2021). And I didn't help in the way I could have," the Englishman said.

In addition to Herdman's personal struggles, Canada's preparation for its first World Cup since 1986 was tumultuous. Canada Soccer canceled a friendly against Iran in June 2022 following protests from families of Canadians who were killed in a Ukranian plane shot down by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in 2020. The federation arranged a replacement meeting with Panama, but that game was called off just hours before its scheduled kickoff due to a contract dispute between the players and Canada Soccer.

"I knew Canada, from an organizational perspective, we weren't ready. We weren't ready," Herdman recalled. "And the players? You know, when you see what happened in June and the 'me' had already shifted. The 'we' had gone to 'me.'"

Canada lost all three of its matches at the 2022 World Cup, finishing bottom of its group.

"I didn't need it. I felt my job was done, on the qualification. I did not need that World Cup. I don't know if I wanted it, either," Herdman said of his mindset at the tournament.

The 48-year-old announced he was stepping down as Canada boss last August. He didn't take over at this next job, with Major League Soccer's Toronto FC, until October to ease the coaching transition at Canada Soccer.

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox