Canada-born trio Kevin McKenna (l.), Owen Hargreaves (c.) and Paul Stalteri (r.) made their Bundesliga debuts on the same day.
Canada-born trio Kevin McKenna (l.), Owen Hargreaves (c.) and Paul Stalteri (r.) made their Bundesliga debuts on the same day.

Canada Day in the Bundesliga

The Great White North has provided the Bundesliga with some stand-out performers over the years. It all began on a fateful day in the summer of 2000…

Canada Day?

August 12 2000 might look like an inconsequential day in the annals of German football history. Defending champions Bayern Munich kicked off their 2001/02 Bundesliga campaign with a 4-1 win over Hertha Berlin, and the biggest surprise of that season's opening weekend was promoted Bochum's 1-0 victory over 1998 champions Kaiserslautern.

Those who had their lenses trained on the Weser Stadium for Werder Bremen's clash with Energie Cottbus witnessed a landmark moment though. Thirty-eight years after the first Bundesliga season, Canada finally contributed a player to Germany's top flight. Not once, but twice.

Glittering careers

"A dream come true," was how Stalteri described the match in which he scored Bremen's equaliser on the way to a 3-1 win. "I knew I would always have a chance eventually and I knew this year my chance would come; I just didn't know it would come in the first game of the season!"

Stalteri would go on to seize a number of other chances, helping Bremen to a league and cup double in 2004. A four-year stay in England with Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham followed before the versatile defender returned for a second spell in Germany with Borussia Mönchengladbach, concluding his career in 2011 with a Canadian-record 170 Bundesliga appearances.

A friend indeed

As if that fateful Saturday 17 years ago was not story enough, just over six hours after Bremen put Cottbus to the sword, a certain teenaged Owen Hargreaves, also born in Calgary, came off the bench to make his debut in Bayern's evening kick-off at the Allianz Arena. Whilst Hargreaves went on to represent England 42 times internationally, the Bundesliga has been treated to more of Canada's finest since that halcyon summer. Canada's record cap-holder Julian de Guzman enjoyed a fruitful three-year spell at Hannover, and Bochum midfielder Daniel Imhof attracted admiring glances from clubs at home and abroad in the 2007/08 season having helped the North Rhine-Westphalia club to promotion the previous year.

A Canadian legacy

Canadians Olivier Occean and Simeon Jackson - strikers with Eintracht Frankfurt and Eintracht Braunschweig respectively - followed, each enjoying single seasons in Germany's top tier, while the most recent import from the North American nation was Marcel de Jong, the left-back who concluded a five-year stay with Augsburg the summer before last.

"I wanted to go out and show the people and the coach that I could actually do something when he decided to play me," said Stalteri all those years ago. His countrymen have managed to achieve that and then some since.

Stuart Telford

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