Marc Bircham earned a Guinness World Record for becoming the first player to score a goal at international level without having set foot in his own country – “and I still kissed the badge”.
It’s a shame he sang the wrong national anthem, though, as he got strange looks from his new teammates when he belted out God Save the Queen.
The QPR cult hero joined talkSPORT to re-lived some of his craziest moments, and answered the question of how he actually came to represent Canada, despite being a born and bred Londoner… and almost playing for Wales.
Beginning his career at Millwall, ‘Birch’ later joined QPR where he became a fan-favourite, cult hero and a true club legend.
He tells talkSPORT it was a dream come true to play for Rangers, later returning to Loftus Road as a coach and caretaker manager.
He is loved by fans – who still sing his ‘We love you Bircham, you’ve got blue hair’ song from the stands – but, while many fans would name him as one of QPR’s best players, he if fully aware of his level.
Many will be wondering just how a Londoner ended up playing for Canada, well, he admits it all started with knowing he wasn’t good enough to play for England, and so was set to play for Wales instead.
Or so he thought…
“In the Olympics, my granddad used to say, ‘cheer on Canada because I was born there’ – the family moved out there back in the day,” Bircham told the Sports Bar.
“When they came back [to England], they stopped through Wales and thought they had registered his birth in Wales, so I got called up for Wales.
“I got called up against Belgium and literally the day before the game, they said, ‘we’ve looked into it and your granddad was born in Winnipeg’.
“Just by luck, I think we played Fulham and Paul Peschisolido was playing for Fulham and the Canadian secretary was over and said, ‘do you want to play for us?’
“I was like, ‘erm, I dunno?’ He said they had a training camp in Amsterdam, so I said, ‘Yeah I’ll give it a go for a week’.”
Bircham then entered the Guinness Book of Records when he come off the bench to score on his debut for Canada – which just so happened to be hosted by Northern Ireland in Belfast, meaning he still hadn’t visited his adopted nation.
“I’m the first person to ever score for their country without stepping foot there,” Bircham said with a laugh.
“So my debut was Northern Ireland away and I sang the wrong national anthem. God Save the Queen came on and I blasted that out – they [teammates] were all looking at me.
“I came on as a sub, scored my first goal, kissed the badge – amazing.”
Bircham was then quizzed on how the other Canadian players reacted to having Londoner in the squad?
Bircham responded: “Me knowing the national anthem went down a treat… because I learned it off South Park!
“Then, after the game, because my name Marc is spelled with a ‘c’ of course they thought I was from Montreal and French.
“They sent me in to do the press and it was all French press so they’re talking to me and I give it ‘Je m’appelle Marc, J’habite a Londres’.
“They said, ‘Are you not French Canadian?’ And I said, ‘I’m not even Canadian – I’ve never been there before!’”
Bircham was never one to miss out on a practical joke and revealed how he got some payback on his international teammates with an impromptu trip to a pet shop.
“It was a game for Canada and the lads all chipped in to send me over there, but when I walked into my room everything was upside down – the bed, TV, wardrobe,” he said. “They thought that was funny.
“So the next day we were out in the shopping mall with Jim Brennan and we walked past the pet shop. There was a 25ft python for sale, so I said, ‘come on Jim, shall we buy it?’
“He said, ”What are we gonna do with a python?’ I said, ‘we’ll do something with it’. It was $250, so I bought it.
“When we went back to the hotel the lads were playing cards in the room. So I went in and said, ‘hi, last night was really funny’, and I threw the python on the floor.
“Paul Stalteri, who at the time was playing for Tottenham, said, ‘ah it’s a toy snake’. He went over to it and the snake reared up a bit – he literally screamed like a girl and jumped on top of his wardrobe, crying.
“There were six [players] in the room and it [the snake] was right by the door, so we shut the door and they missed the team lunch. They were ringing downstairs saying, ‘there’s a snake in our room’, and they were like, ‘oh yeah, nice one’.
“They were stuck in that room for two hours!
He continued on Sky Sports: “The snake was like our mascot. We had a few games and we took him with us.
“The Americans had a mascot, they had an eagle, so we had a live python – it was much better!
“But he kept attacking the lads – it’s a bit off-putting in the half-time team talk!
“In the end we took it back to the pet shop, and we even got half our money back. So that was a bonus!”
I bet your teammates were equally pleased… for different reasons!
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