Teams: Toronto FC, Fiorentina, Barça
Life after Osieck
Canadian Press story Sept. 4:
Midfielder Marc Bircham, who retired from international soccer after a falling out with coach Holger Osieck, says he is ready to play for Canada again in the wake of Osieck's departure.
Apparently the Canadian Soccer Association wasted little time welcoming the English-born player back to the fold. Bircham says he was contacted Monday, the day before the CSA officially confirmed a CP report that the coach had stepped down.
Bircham burst on the Canadian soccer scene in 1999, brought into the Canadian camp after officials learned he qualified to play for Canada because his grandfather was born in Winnipeg.
Bircham played 13 times for Canada, making a dream debut in 1999 in the 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland in Belfast that was Osieck's game first at the helm.
He scored for Canada in that game - before ever setting foot in the country.
The Queens Park Rangers player turned his back on Canada after a disastrous trip to Japan for the Confederations Cup in 2001. Osieck never played him in three games, a slight that rankled all the more because Bircham had brought his father over to Japan.
"I was away for three weeks and I hated it," he said after the trip, before turning his sights on Osieck. "He treated us like kids."
Osieck said Bircham hadn't shown in training he deserved to play. But it was clear the hard-nosed German and fun-loving Londoner did not see eye to eye on or off the pitch.
Two years and 18 internationals later, with Osieck gone, Bircham says he would love to play for Canada if it fits in with his club commitments.
"I said I'd be more than delighted to come back, if it didn't affect my games playing for QPR, because that's my priority for the minute," Bircham said Wednesday from London. "It's a big year for us. It's the last year of my contract and we've got to go up to Division One. But if I didn't miss any games, I'll be more than happy to come back."
That could be a problem. Canada only has one game scheduled, an Oct. 11 friendly in Finland that clashes with QPR's game against Brentford.
There is no schedule yet for Canada's World Cup qualifying campaign, which is expected to start early next year. But while top leagues in Europe close down for business at certain times, to facilitate international fixtures, it's business as usual at the lower leagues, such as the one where Bircham toils.