Last time the Hawks had lost in the provincials, COVID-19 didn’t exist, the Toronto Raptors hadn’t won its ring yet and Leo Messi was still with F.C. Barcelona. The world was different the last time the Humber Hawks had lost a game in the OCAA Provincials in 2017.
Six years later, Humber lost in the OCAA Championship finals against the Conestoga Condors, 0-3 on Oct. 29 stopping their chances of a five-peat.
The Hawks have clinched the national titles of 2018, 2019, 2021, and 2022 in that span, just missing the 2020 title, only because it was cancelled for the pandemic.
Learning to lose after so long is a hard pill to swallow, especially for Michael Fayehun, the captain of the Hawks and in their last year of OCAA eligibility.
“I think my time is done and yes, it’s a little hard to finish with a loss. But it makes you realize what we have achieved” Fayehun said.
Michael Aquino, the coach of Humber for the last decade, said his mind keeps spinning, thinking of the finals. He says losses lead to far more reflection than wins.
“But we are very proud of what we have been able to accomplish,” he said.
The national dominance of the Hawks has been based on a very attractive style of play built on taking care of the ball, keeping possession, and attacking all the time.
Aquino said Humber, in previous years, was stylistically compared with F.C. Barcelona for putting a similar philosophy into practice on the field.
“At some point, they used to call us Humberlona for the way we play. Somebody gave us this kind of distinction,” the coach said.
“I like to watch how Napoli plays, how Barcelona plays, how Manchester City plays. This is a much different level, but you encourage your players to play in such a way that is played by the best teams in the world,” Aquino said.
However, Fayehun said there is another hallmark that defines the team’s record of success.
“We have mental toughness. It’s easy to win, but difficult to stay as a champion and win year after year. This is more than talent,” the captain said.
Fayehun says there was a moment five years ago that illustrated this never-give-up mindset of the Hawks.
“In the semifinal from 2018, we were down 1-0 after receiving the goal with seven minutes left,” the defender said. “But we kept pushing, we tied in the last minute and we won the game in overtime to go into the finals to win the championship,”
While Fayehun will leave the team, other veterans like forward Damion Kaye will be here to carry the responsibility of leading the locker room and the Hawks’ ambition of becoming champions again.
Kaye said Humber could grow from this defeat.
“It’s something that is going to make us better as a group and to achieve more,” he said.