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Owen Hargreaves - So Many Homes To Choose From

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


How many 20-year old English footballers do you know of that broke into the first team squad of a prestigious club, achieved Champions League triumph and ended up having four different countries chasing them to become an integral part of their national team's future?
Well, the answer is there's only one such footballer and his name is Owen Hargreaves, of Bayern Munich.
Owen shot to European prominence in an outstanding performance deputising for the suspended Stefan Effenberg in Bayern's 2-1 semi-final victory over Real Madrid in last season's Champions' League.
Despite never having lived in England, Hargreaves has elected to commit himself to playing for England, even though he is also eligible to play for Germany where he is nearing the five-year residential qualification period, Wales (his mother's birth-country) or Canada, where he was born and grew up.
It was Owen's father, Colin, who instilled a love of the game into his two sons after emigrating 20 years ago with his Rhyl-born wife Margaret to Calgary, where he is sales manager for a steel firm. He had played youth football himself as a striker for both Bolton and Wigan.
While pals took part in basketball or ice hockey, Owen and elder brother Dan honed their skills in the shadow of the Rockies and watched Premiership highlights with their dad on television. Dan was good enough to be offered YTS terms by Bolton. He finished his education instead, but a twist of fate put Owen on the Champions League trail. A Calgary-based German coach with connections in Munich watched talented Owen develop from a promising 13-year-old left-sided midfielder and arranged a trial at Bayern when he was 16.
Hargreaves recalls how difficult he thought it would be, "Nobody had come through from the youth side to the first team for about six years, so it was always going to be a long shot. I was a long way from home and a long way from the first team, but that became my ambition." Once Bayern club president Franz Beckenbauer had declared that Hargreaves was "a huge talent," his imminent rise to first team glory was inevitable.
Owen's decision to commit himself to England can probably be attributed to his ultimate aim - to play in the Premiership for his father's beloved Bolton Wanderers.
Hargreaves admitted, "I'd love to play in England in the future. The Premiership is getting stronger and stronger, and my dad is bound to make sure that I talk to Bolton Wanderers first. He would love me to play for Bolton," he admitted. Several leading Premiership clubs, including Arsenal, have expressed an interest in bringing Owen to England, but Franz Beckenbauer has already issued a "not for sale" notice over the talented youngster.
"He's an integral part of our club's future", he said, "he's staying at Bayern for quite a while!"




Mike Lee, November 2001

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