By Owen Hargreaves
England and Bayern Munich midfielder
Even in my own family I am a bit of an outcast.
I am the only member of the Hargreaves clan that was not born in England or Wales.
My mother is from Wales but my father is English. My eldest brother Darren was born in Wales, while my other brother Neil was born in England.
And then there is me - born in Canada and the only England player never to have played in England.
Even though I grew up in Canada it was in a traditional English house because that is what my grandfather and parents were used to.
Everything from playing football to having Yorkshire puddings on a Sunday.
My father made the decision to leave Britain to work in Canada and after a short time in Toronto the family moved to Calgary where I was born.
I grew up wanting to be like my dad and eldest brother Darren.
My father would have loved to have been a footballer but it never worked out for him.
He was in the youth team at Bolton and then played semi-professional football for the Calgary Kickers when he moved to Canada.
They were quite successful and I remember my brothers and I would go into the stadium and the dressing room with the players.
At that time I did not really have a feeling for being English or Canadian but my friends would ring up my house and they could not understand what my dad was saying because of his accent.
I have never had a red card and I probably never will because I'll never let myself get provoked
Growing up I played every sport you possibly could.
I probably played more basketball than football. In Canada it is so cold that we probably only played football twice a week, whereas I would play basketball every day.
Darren was a great player in his younger days. He was a talented striker and very athletic and represented Canada at youth level.
Everywhere I went people would tell me how good he was - he really was the star player where we grew up.
My dad sent him to Bolton at about 16 and they wanted to sign him but my father wanted him to finish his last year of school.
He was unlucky in that he had a lot of knee injuries and that year he tore his cruciate ligament and so he missed out.
When my turn came around I think my dad thought these opportunities are too good to let go.
With my dad and brother being so good I had that family name to live up to.
My brothers are my two biggest supporters. They were at the World Cup finals last summer with me and it is great to have such support.
They are both still in Canada but if I was to play in England they have spoken about moving back as well.
I am 26 now and have another five or 10 years before I do something else so they want to be part of it.
At an early age I never really thought about being a professional.
Growing up where I did, the football played in Italy, Germany and England looked so superior it was just a dream.
My team from Calgary played in the Ian Rush tournament in Wales and my dad spoke to a Liverpool scout - I think it was Steve Heighway.
Hargreaves is keen to play in England
He told him to have a look at me but I am not sure they ever did.
In October 1996 my coach Thomas Niedorf got me some trials in Germany.
I was 15 and flew over on my own and spent a week with Bayern.
We had trials lined up at places like Cologne and Leverkusen because we never expected them to keep me.
But Bayern liked what they saw so in the summer of 1997 I moved to Munich and have been there for the last 10 years.
Germany is famous for its discipline and organisation. They all had the same clothes and shoes and the pitches were immaculate.
I grew up in an environment where football was important but this was a whole new level.
Even at 16 they were very competitive, which suited me. Everyone wanted to be the next star and it was great to be a part of it.
But I was completely naive as to what I was getting into.
At that age I thought I knew everything and that I could move anywhere and be fine.
I had almost no idea who Bayern were and could probably only name one or two players on their team.
At first I thought I was never going to get the language but after about a year of lessons I was fine.
I was part of a little group including Nils-Eric Johansson (now at Leicester), Steffen Hoffman, of Rapid Vienna, and goalkeeper Stefan Magnusson, from Iceland, who learned the language together.
It was difficult because I was miles from home and out of my comfort zone but I was so stubborn I did not want to give up. I do not like to ask for help from anyone so just told myself I could do it.
I was presented with a great opportunity and had my foot in the door and I just had to take it.
Back then there was no internet and I could not afford to phone Canada much so I was forced to deal with things on my own.
Now with email and cheap calls if I had done the same I would have been on the phone saying it is too hard all the time.
I am glad I did it as it really made me a lot stronger. Things like that give you confidence.
As a kid growing up I thought Calgary was the only place to be but then I moved to Germany and since then I have travelled around the world.
What you can see and learn from travelling is priceless and as I get older I want to see the world and live in different places like Australia, London, New York and South Africa.
At 23 I felt I had everything ahead of me, but three years on I need to look at what I want to achieve and where I want to go because these are the most important years of my career.
I want to make the most of it. I have made the most so far and I will in the future.
I think I am headed in the right direction but I need to map out where I want to go and plot where my future is to take me.
YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
You too know how it feels not to get into the England side until your brilliant World Cup. However do you feel that BBC columnist Kevin Nolan should be given his chance to show his class on the international stage?
You get that chance by playing well for your club and doing things right and the first step is for people to notice you. He's captain of Bolton and they have done extremely well and that's partly down to his success.
But in the end there are so many players who could be picked. In the end it is down to the manager and there is a big pool to choose from. But he's definitely one of those like Joey Barton who are looking to get in.
Hey Owen. Would you ever consider opening some football training camps in your native Canada so the game can grow here? Would you like to play for Toronto FC maybe at the end of your career?
Mark O'Leary, Canada-Vancouver
It is not something I have really thought about. I'd love to give something back but at the minute I'm still so busy I don't really have much time for myself. But definitely if I can give something back I'd love to and that might mean starting a camp. Maybe one day I will play in the MLS but I'm focussing on making the most of my career for now.
How did losing such a big player like Michael Ballack affect you in the dressing room and on the pitch? Did you find yourself looking for him during games?
Big players come and go and you just deal with it. We lost Stefan Effenberg before and Giovane Elber and countless other players and you need to adapt and move forward. People go and new players come in. At 26 I need to take more responsibility and move into such roles. I also see it as an opportunity for our younger players like Bastian Schweinsteiger who is a good player and he needs to take more of an important role along with myself. A few years ago it seemed the big teams all had one key player like a Roy Keane and a Ballack, but now teams have five or six who are influential and that is the future of modern football.
Hi Owen, great column!
As a British Eintracht Frankfurt fan living in Dresden, I have two questions:
- can Eintracht avoid the drop this year?
- do you think East German football will ever develop fully?
Good luck for the rest of the season!
We played Frankfurt last year in a cup final and they have some good young German players. I thought they were definitely on the up but for some reason they haven't performed like last year - a bit like West Ham in England. We play them this week and they always play good offensive football which is nice to watch. They have a good future and they should definitely stay up - I hope they do as they have a lovely stadium and it is somewhere I enjoy playing.
As for East Germany - I have not played much there but I know a lot of players from places like Dresden. Their heart is always so set on teams in East Germany. I have rarely seen anything like the tradition and the support given - even financially - back to the clubs. Sometimes those third division teams have 10-15,000 fans at games which is unheard of. The support is massive there, it's just maybe the infrastructure needs to catch up. Hopefully in the future you will see some more teams in the Bundesliga as at the moment I think there is just one which is not enough for the region.
Owen you often refer to football as a "business" and I was wondering what your thoughts are on recent outrageous behaviour? For example if businessmen acted like the Valencia and Inter players they would be instantly dismissed.
Ryan McCarthy, England
That is true. It was a disgrace. There is no place for it, there are 70,000 fans in the stadium and millions watching on television. I've been elbowed in the head and smashed in the nose. But I'm a fair player - I would never purposefully kick or injure someone. I play hard and give everything but at some times there are players who possibly are not as talented who need to work in different ways to get under your skin and try and provoke you. But I think I have learned from those things. I have never had a red card and I probably never will because I'll never let myself get provoked. I don't want to miss three or four games just because I felt like smashing someone in the nose. You're better off turning the other way, smiling and saying 'see you later'.
Every week Owen will be answering a selection of your questions in his column. So, using the postform at the top of this column on the right, send us your questions and we will put some of them to the England international.
*SMS charges vary depending on your network and tarriff. Please contact your operator for more details.