Thursday, April 2, 2009
Harper and Hargreaves vs. Canada
Prime Minister Stephen Harper staged a photo opportunity on Wednesday morning with Owen Hargreaves, the Calgary-born soccer star who plays for Manchester United in the English Premier League.
“Owen Hargreaves is one of Canada’s most famous and accomplished international athletes,” Harper said in a release. “Given soccer’s massive worldwide appeal, it is certainly refreshing to note that one of the world’s brightest stars is Canadian. … Thank you, Owen, for all you have done to shine the international spotlight on Canadian soccer.”
Hargreaves, who left home as a teenager to pursue his soccer career in Europe, opted to play for England over Canada. The 28-year-old has won 42 caps for England and was a key player for the country at the 2006 World Cup.
He was eligible to play for England through family bloodlines.
This photo has sparked major debate about Hargreaves and Harper. A good Canadian from here in Vancouver and proud supporter of the Canadian National Team, Massimo Cusano, wrote the following:
I am appalled that Prime Minister Harper took the time to meet with Owen Hargreaves while in England. Owen Hargreaves is an opportunist that thought selfishly about his own career instead of his country. The fact that Mr. Harper recognized this man is disgraceful.
As an avid supporter of our Men's National Team, I find it very disheartening to watch those that represent this country struggle while arguably our most talented players, Owen Hargreaves, Jonathan De Guzman and Daniel Fernandes, play for England, Holland and Portugal respectively. All this despite the fact that they were all born, raised and trained in this country for the majority of their youth. It is my belief that if these players wore the red and white of Canada, we would be celebrating a World Cup appearance in South Africa in 2010 regardless of CSA incompetence.
The story behind Mr. Hargreaves goes much deeper however. You incorrectly state that 'Canada only noticed him once he was gone'. In fact, Hargreaves unsuccessfully tried out for Canada's U17 national team. People may look at this as justification for his decision, however I strongly disagree. Owen was an underage player at the time and we all know the difference one year of development can make at that age group. During his time at Bayern Munich, he was approached by then Canadian manager Holger Osieck. Owen even appeared on a Sportsnet television interview saying that he was willing to represent Canada. But then came wind that England may be interested and Mr. Hargreaves became much more evasive. Being eligible to represent one of three countries (Canada, England or Wales) he meticulously calculated which decision would offer him the most personal gain, ultimately choosing England. In the end, he defended his choice by saying that he always felt more British than Canadian anyways. If this was the case, why did he participate in a Canadian youth team camp in the first place? He is a first-class hypocrite, not a first-class Canadian.
I have an enormous amount of respect for players like George Weah and Ryan Giggs; players that chose to represent their country knowing that they may never have the opportunity to play in the World Cup. That requires sacrifice. That is honourable. Unfortunately, Owen does not seem to possess those characteristics.
I have called to schedule an appointment with my MP to personally convey my astonishment, dismay and outrage at Mr. Harper's photo opportunity. I have voted for Mr. Harper's party in the last 2 elections. Unless he issues an apology admitting that his meeting with and acknowledgement of Mr. Hargreaves was indeed a mistake, he will not see my vote again. Many may consider this childish. How could such a trivial issue determine my future vote? But to call this issue trivial is to miss the bigger picture. With one simple photo, our Prime Minister has diminished the actions of all those that have represented this country, our country. We have soldiers in Afghanistan that are willing to pay the ultimate price for Canada; Owen Hargreaves did not represent Canada because he was not ready to sacrifice the size of his pocket book.
Mike Martignago and Tyler Green will share their thoughts on the show on Sunday night. Full-Time is on at midnight, following the Canucks v Colorado game on the TEAM 1040.