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Toronto Sun: Help on the way for Canada

Ben Lauden

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Tue, June 15, 2004

Help on way for Canada


ONE CAN only speculate how strong the Canadian men's soccer team might have become if the Three H Club -- Hargreaves, Hume and Hutchinson -- had remained together. Unfortunately for Canadian soccer, Calgary native Owen Hargreaves opted to play for England, his father's birthplace, leaving only Iain Hume and Atiba Hutchinson to toil for the Maple Leaf.

But you know what? That's pretty damn good.

At last year's FIFA world youth championship, Hume and Hutchinson led Canada to a best-ever showing, a quarter-final berth, losing 2-1 to Spain in extra time.

Toronto native Hutchinson, a midfielder, made the tournament all-star team while Hume, who grew up in Brampton, got honourable mention.

The good news is that Hume and Hutchinson expect to be part of the Canadian team for years to come.

Hume, who plays midfield and forward, became the youngest player to play for Tranmere Rovers of the English Second Division four years ago as a 16-year-old, prompting the Scottish Football Association to inquire whether the Edinburgh-born player would be interested in playing at the world U16 championship for the country of his birth.

Like Hargreaves, Hume developed his soccer in Canada. Unlike Hargreaves, he felt loyalty to the program and opted to remain with the red and white.

Since signing with Tranmere, the 20-year dynamo, who had a Maple Leaf shaved into his head for this week's two-game World Cup qualifying series against Belize at Kingston's Richardson Stadium, has become a fan favourite and there are reports that he will be bought soon by a First or even Premier Division club.

Hutchinson plays for Helsingborg of the the Swedish Premier League and insiders believe it's a matter of a year or two before he's playing at the highest level in Europe.

All this bodes well for the Canadian team, which has not qualified for a World Cup final since 1986. Hume and Hutchinson aside, the Canadian team has a group of strong players in their 20s, including midfielder Julian de Guzman, 23, who plays for Hannover in the German Bundesliga, and Calgary defender Kevin McKenna, 24, of Scottish Premier team Hearts.

Canada defeated Belize 4-0 on Sunday and the two sides play again tomorrow night in Kingston. The total goals winner advances to the next round of qualifying.

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