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Toronto Sun: Brit Dying to Wear Red & White

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Brit dying to wear the red and white


At first glance, national team midfielder Marc Bircham seems as Canadian as warm beer and mushy peas. However, the born and bred Brit wears his Canadian uniform with great pride and he'll be easy to spot this afternoon when the national side takes on Belize in a World Cup qualifying match at Kingston's Richardson Stadium.

Bircham is the one with the red and white streaked hair. Prior to joining the team a few weeks ago, the mop was blue and white, the colours of his club team, Queen's Park Rangers of the English Second Division. Have hair colouring, will travel.

"It was clashing with the kit (uniform)," Bircham said of his former hair style. "The lads had been giving me the stink, so I got some red hair die for Canada."

Bircham's journey to the Canadian national side is unique. Born and raised in London, he grew up a huge QPR fan and once laced up his boots as a youth apprentice with the team. From there he joined Millwall's first team and helped the Lions move from the second division to the first before signing a pro contract with QPR.

Back in 1999, prior to a match against Northern Ireland in Belfast, Canadian soccer officials discovered that Bircham's grandfather was born in Winnipeg. The proper paperwork was submitted and before long Bircham was kicking for Canada and actually scored in his debut before ever setting foot in Canada.

For head coach Frank Yallop, having Bircham back is wonderful. The hard-working midfielder, who now has 16 caps, left the team during the reign of Holger Osieck.

The German coach and the fun-loving Brit mixed like orange marmalade on wiener schnitzel.

That strained relationship came to a head at the 2001 Confederations Cup in Japan when Bircham paid for his dad's flight and never got off the bench during the tournament.

But with the hiring of Yallop, who also played for QPR during his days as a hard-nosed defender, Bircham jumped at the chance to rejoin the national side.

Bircham grew up hearing stories of the Canadian west.

His great grandfather worked his way west, building railway lines and bridges. Bircham said he always felt an affinity for things Canuck.

"If we weren't cheering England and Britain during the Olympics, it was Canada," he said. "Then when I got older, I got watching hockey (on TV)."

Bircham's work ethic and friendly manner have made him a team favourite with QPR and on the Canadian team.

"He brings a great comradarie,'' Yallup said. "All the guys like him. He's good at winning the ball and defensively he's tough to play against"

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