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  • Saturday, August 12, 2000

    Owen's time is near

    By TOM BRENNAN -- Calgary Sun

     Sounds like he's ready if they need him -- and they might need him a lot sooner than they thought.

     German soccer colossus Bayern Munich begins its quest for a third straight Bundesliga title today, and indications are 19-year-old Calgarian Owen Hargreaves will be on their bench when Bayern hosts Hertha Berlin at Munich's Olympic Stadium.

     However, with injuries scything down Bayern regulars -- six first teamers are out of the lineup -- on a seemingly daily basis, speculation on the team's official website is that Hargreaves is not very far away from seeing the pitch.

     "As (head coach) Ottmar Hitzfeld tries to overcome what is increasingly looking like a selection nightmare, Owen Lee Hargreaves could be about to get his chance," said a story posted yesterday on the site (www.fcb.de).

     "The young Canadian can reasonably hope to make his Bundesliga debut for Bayern at some point over the next few weeks."

     Hargreaves, beginning his fourth year at Bayern, made an impact in the pre-season, playing in all the matches and scoring what was a described as a 'sublime' goal against Erfurt.

     "Hargreaves put in a number of impressive performances during the friendlies and won the respect of his teammates," said the website.

     "(German international) Keeper Oliver Kahn describes him as 'a top class player' and (assistant coach Michael) Henke reckons `he has huge potential.'

     "Hitzfeld, however, isn't about to throw his protege in at the deep end. 'It would be wrong to bring young players in too early. You would only burn them out. For the game against Hertha, I need experienced players,' " the website states.

     However, some action for Hargreaves is not being ruled out.

     Sweeper Ciriaco Sforza, who defected back to Bayern from Kaiserslautern this season, will move into the central midfield role held by team captain Stefan Effenberg, gone for three months with an Achilles injury. But Sforza is being hampered by an allergy, and is listed at about 80% fit. If he can't go 90 minutes, the site surmises, "Hargreaves could find himself making at least a brief appearance."

     "It's gone pretty well so far," admits Hargreaves, who apparently got to exchange shirts with Manchester United star Ryan Giggs after Bayern beat them a week ago. "I played in all the preparation games and get on really well with the rest of the squad."

     Besides Effenberg, Bayern is missing German national team midfielders Jens Jeremies and Thomas Strunz, Brazilian strikers Elber and Paulo Sergio, and World Cup and European championship-winning French defender Bixente Lizarazu.

     Their likely starting midfield is Sforza, Germany star Mehmet Scholl, Thorsten Fink and Bosnian international Hasan Salihamidzic.

     Hertha Berlin, by the way, is coached by Juergen Roeber, who played for the NASL's Calgary Boomers in 1981.



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