Harkes harks back to life in England

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The Independent Online
Remember how football was going to take root in the sporting imagination of America after the last World Cup finals? Three years on, the professional game is surviving - even successful - but yet it fails to stir the emotions of American fans in the way that gridiron football and baseball do.

Even a missionary for the game as committed as John Harkes has to admit that football American-style still lacks something. He even misses England.

The New Jersey-born son of Scottish immigrants, now captain of the United States national team, confessed as much in an interview before yesterday's World Cup qualifying match with Costa Rica, which he had to sit out because of suspension.

"There is no question that there are still times when I wish I were back overseas," Harkes said, recalling a career that included 82 Premiership appearances for Sheffield Wednesday. "I love the passion of the game over there.

"You have to work hard to market the game here and obviously, in that respect, it is a lot easier in Europe."

Nevertheless, Harkes, whose Washington-based DC United are bidding to retain their Major League Soccer title, believes the game will have a lasting place in the American sporting spectrum.

"We did a lot of promoting last year, but this season the players have been allowed to focus on the game more and I think the product on the field is better as a result."

It will need to go a long way, however, to give Harkes a more lasting memory than his goal-scoring Wembley appearance for Wednesday in the 1993 Coca-Cola Cup final, which he regards as one of the proudest moments of his career.