Michael Owen opens up on son’s condition that forced him to give up football

Michael Owen’s son has been diagnosed with Stargardt disease  (Getty Images)

Michael Owen’s son has been diagnosed with Stargardt disease (Getty Images)

Michael Owen has opened up on the diagnosis of a rare condition that has forced his son to give up on football.

James Owen, 17, was diagnosed with Stargardt disease when he was eight. The disease is an incurable genetic condition that results in the build-up of fatty material on the macula, a part of the retina required for sharp vision.

The England great’s son was able to play the sport his father excelled at as a youngster but further deterioration in his sight means he is now clinically blind.

“People do expect me to be going into football and I did used to really enjoy it,” James Owen told the Daily Mail. “But it was getting to a point where it was too difficult to know where the ball was. I lost the enjoyment out of it really because I wanted to be the best.”

Former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker Owen scored 40 goals in 89 England caps, winning the Ballon d’Or in 2001.

He said that having to explain his son’s condition to those asking if James would be pursuing the sport professionally was “the hardest thing”.

“When someone comes up to you in the pub and says ‘does your son play?’ you just want to change the subject,” Owen explained. “That’s probably been the hardest thing over the years. James probably wasn’t enjoying football as much as he should have been because he wasn’t as good as he should have been.

‘When he was very young and his eyes were probably slightly better than they are now and the pitches were smaller and everything was a lot closer so he could see the ball better, he was very, very good. I said to my dad and my wife and everyone ‘he’s got a right chance here of being a footballer’.

“But then as soon as he got diagnosed, he just sort of gradually stopped. He coped with it well.”

The pair hope to raise awareness about Stargardt disease in a documentary.

Titled “Football is For Everyone”, it will air on TNT Sports on 30 January.

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