Hargreaves past, present, future

“Calgary will always have a special place in my heart,” says 21-year-old soccer star Owen Hargreaves.

Born and raised in Calgary, Owen discovered his love for soccer early on, when he played with his father and his brothers and tried to keep up with them.

"They were my idols then, but once I got into my teens, my goal was always to play in Europe."

Soccer always came easier to Hargreaves than basketball or hockey and the dream of playing in Europe turned into a goal that required all his energy.

Only 16, Owen had to make a crucial decision: stay in Canada, play soccer and pursue a different career, or go to Europe and try to make it there as a soccer player.

"I left my family and friends at the age of 16 to pursue something that nobody thought was possible, but I wouldn’t have taken the step if I didn’t believe in myself."

Chasing his dreams, young Hargreaves decided to leave Canada. The future for a Canadian soccer player who wants to make it to the top and play againstthe best players in the world is overseas, and for Owen, it was in Germany.

"My parents were great in letting me make my own decisions at a young age. I think I always had a mind of my own and they said ‘do what you think is best.’ "

Hargreaves went to play for the junior team of Bayern Munich, the richest, most prestigious and very successful soccer club in Germany. After a couple of years, he won a spot on their top team.

"This has been my goal all along," says Hargreaves. "And now I hope to continue to take steps forward and try to make myself a better player all around.

"I’m still learning new things all the time and I want to continue to do that. I want to make myself better and work on my weaknesses."

Hargreaves had enormous success in Germany and Europe, being on the English National side for last month’s Soccer World Cup and earning titles such as "Best Young Player 2001" of the German Bundesliga and "Best European Football Player under 21" in 2001.

Hargreaves enjoys playing for Bayern, speaks good German and has an affinity to German bread. However, even though he is happy to be in Munich, he is open to new experiences. He can imagine changing to a different club and adapting to a new culture. Moreover, he takes care of his Canadian roots.

"You never forget where you come from and who your friends are. It’s very important to me to keep in touch with those people who knew me before I was a soccer player."

When it comes to the future, Hargreaves doesn’t look very far ahead.

"I’m not sure what path I’ll take. First and foremost I would like to be close to my family. I’ll have to see how things progress."

Hargreaves believes in a bright soccer future for Canada, though women’s soccer has been far more successful than the men’s teams.

"The women’s team have had a lot of success against some of the best teams and that is great publicity. The men’s team won the Gold Cup and had some good results in the past but I think consistency is important. I think Canada has a bright future in soccer. The youth of Canada has shown a keen interest and that bodes well for the men’s and women’s team."

Even though he sees his soccer career in Europe, Hargreaves does not exclude a return to Canada as a coach. For the Canadian youth and possibly even for him, it would be good if one of Canada’s finest wouldn’t stay in Europe forever.

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