Winning on the world stage

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

As a teen growing up in Calgary, Owen Hargreaves' claim to fame was delivering Theo Fleury's newspaper.

Trevor Kidd's, too.

Working at McDonald's at age 15 also seemed pretty cool until he got the chance to pursue his soccer-playing dreams in Germany a year later.

Three German league championships, two German Cups, a Champions League title and a World Cup appearance later, his fame as a Bayern Munich midfielder has brought him fortune few former fast-food employees could fathom.

With a new multi-million dollar contract under his belt and his Calgary sweetheart by his side, the only 25-year-old Douglasdale product seemed to be missing of late was his health.

Oh, and a modelling portfolio.

"I'm telling you, it's hard," said Hargreaves of a recent photo shoot for Harry Rosen for which he posed in Boss World Cup soccer jerseys in exchange for a donation to World Vision.

"I'm glad I can do that kind of thing but I would never want to do it professionally. There are always people picking at you and doing your makeup -- everyone thinks it's easy but it's not.

"It's a 13-hour a day job. I'm very happy I picked soccer because you play 90 minutes and then you go home and relax."

If only it were that easy.

Rewarded for a lifetime of hard work in pursuit of a seemingly impossible dream for a young Canuck, Hargreaves is moving into the prime of his soccer career. Impressive off the bench for England at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea before injury cut his tourney short, Hargreaves is now being written about daily in Britian as one of coach Sven-Goran Eriksson's likely returnees from the Euro 2004 club.

The only thing standing in the way of a return World Cup engagement was a lengthy hernia/groin injury that shelved the Lord Beaverbrook product for most of the season until he returned Sunday to help his first-place club win.

"(Eriksson) is obviously in touch, asking how I'm doing and checking on me," said Hargreaves, whose decision to play for his father's native England ruffled the feathers of a few twisted Canadian scribes years ago.

"My goal is to be fit for that and hopefully I'll be able to cement my place on the team in time."

With experienced internationals Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell and Michael Owen expected to make the national squad despite battling back from recent injuries, Hargeaves is optimistic he'll also be part of the 23-man roster named May 8. Adding to the intrigue, the World Cup will be played in Germany, which he has called home since moving there as a junior in 1997.

"It would be a wonderful experience for me here," said Hargreaves, who inked a four-year contract extension with FC Bayern just before he was injured last fall.

"If I'm playing in Munich, I should get a warm reception unless I'm playing against Germany and then I'll be like most players -- the enemy."

Currently sponsoring a young boy living in Senegal through World Vision, Hargreaves jumped at the chance to model for his charity of choice.

"I've been really fortunate to enjoy the experiences I've had in my life," said the German heartthrob, whose longtime Calgary girlfriend, Janelle Khouri, lives with him in his refurbished Munich flat.

"Whether I was delivering newspapers at age 12 or working at McDonald's, growing up in Calgary I never would have these experiences had

I not moved here. I feel very lucky and have no regrets at all."

As his ads soon to be released in Canadian newspapers suggest, everything is picture perfect.


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