Sunday, July 02, 2006

Owen Hargreaves, man of the match

This was on the Guardian today and I felt like saying it too, because I couldn't agree more.
Copyrights, if I am infringing any, to Mr. Richard Williams.

Where, on Saturday, was the Englishman prepared to take control of the game as Zinédine Zidane would do in France's defeat of Brazil later that night? The only candidate was Owen Hargreaves, who both converted his penalty - the one Englishman to do so - and secured the man- of-the-match award with 120 minutes of non-stop tackling, intercepting, running and passing. Alone among his colleagues, he displayed a dynamism that seemed to come from within. What also makes him unique among the squad, of course, is that he has never lived in England. The two things may not be unconnected.

Before Hargreaves was born, his parents left Britain to make a new life for their family in Canada. They succeeded, and in so doing may have laid the mental foundation for his son's career. Owen Hargreaves arrived in Munich as a 16-year-old and began a long struggle to establish himself among the superstars in the first team at Bayern, in a country where he knew no one and had to learn the language from scratch. When times were difficult, when he was dropped or suffered injuries, his parents' example of ambition and self-sufficiency can have done him no harm.

Hargreaves may also have benefited from the Bundesliga's 34-match season and its mid-winter break. Whereas he faced up to Portugal's challenge with what the English like to see as their characteristic qualities of energy and doggedness, his native-born team-mates struggled to turn their talent and desire for success into the currency of coherent football.

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