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CP: Bernier Makes Mark North of Arctic Circle

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Patrice Bernier makes soccer mark north of the Arctic Circle

(CP) - Patrice Bernier has been making his soccer mark north of the Arctic Circle this season. The 26-year-old midfielder from Montreal is turning heads in Tromso, some 1,100 kilometres north of Oslo, alongside fellow Canadians Lars Hirschfeld and Stephen Ademolu who are also doing well in Norway.

"Tromso is kind of a lucky town I guess for Canadian soccer players," Bernier said contentedly Tuesday from Luxembourg where Canada plays a friendly Wednesday (Rogers Sportsnet, 2 p.m. ET).

Ademolu, a forward from Windsor, Ont., is also in the Canadian squad - and could win his first cap Wednesday - while goalkeeper Hirschfeld, an Edmonton native, withdrew through injury.

Midfielder Sandro Grande (Viking Stavanger, Norway) pulled out Tuesday with a calf injury. He has been replaced by Jaime Peters (Ipswich Town, England).

Luxembourg is ranked 152nd in the world by FIFA, while Canada is No. 86. The two teams have only met once before, with Canada winning 2-0.

Slightly smaller than Rhode Island, Luxembourg has a population of about 487,000 - roughly the same as London, Ont. Its soccer team took a beating in World Cup qualifying, losing all 12 matches while being outscored 48-5.

Luxembourg is 2-89 in its World Cup qualifying history, with wins over Portugal in 1961 and Turkey in 1972.

That bodes well for Canada and Bernier, who has had bigger fish to fry with his club team.

Tromso has made it to the group stage of the UEFA Cup, eliminating Turkey's Galatasaray along the way. There have since been losses to Roma and Strasbourg with matches down the road against Crvena Zvezda and Basel.

Domestically, the club won four of its last five games to finish eighth in the 14-team Norwegian league.

"It's been going quite well, I think," Bernier said.

Good enough that Bernier has attracted an offer from Turkey's Besiktas, a proposal that was turned down by Tromso.

"It would have been nice to go there for the football, for the life," said Bernier. "Also for the fact that they usually play in the Champions League or UEFA (Cup).

"For me I would have loved to play there. Because in your football career, opportunities like that don't come that often. But I respected the club's decision and I move on. I just have to keep going."

Bernier joined Tromso in July 2004 and his contract runs until July 1, 2007. He spent a season and a half with Moss FK in Norway and before that, three seasons with the Montreal Impact.

His new home is a long way north - 400 kilometres inside the Arctic Circle.

"We're higher up than Alaska," Bernier said.

But it's a pleasant place, nestled in the mountains. There's a university, more than 120 nationalities call Tromso home and people are friendly

Plus it boasts the world's most northern brewery.

"It's a nice town, it's a good place to live," said Bernier, who struggled to find a negative.

"OK, the darkness in the winter. But the advantage during the summer is you have the sun pretty much 24 hours a day."

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