Michael Owen’s Son Had To Give Up On His Football Dream Because Of This Physical Condition

4 Min Read
Michael Owen

Michael Owen has shared details of his son’s life-threatening illness that prevented him from playing football and rendered him “clinically blind.”

James Owen was diagnosed with Stargardt, a rare genetic eye illness, at the age of eight. Stargardt is caused by an accumulation of fatty material in the macula, a small portion of the retina required for centre, crisp vision.

The National Eye Institute states that while vision loss frequently begins in childhood, some Stargardt patients may not experience visual loss until they are adults.

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Blurriness, blurred vision, and difficulty reading or seeing in low light are among the symptoms. Currently, there is no cure for Stargardt’s illness, however, rehabilitation can help sufferers maximize the amount of eyesight they still have.

James confesses that as his chronic condition worsened, he “lost the enjoyment” of football because he wanted to be the best. He, 17, will discuss Stargardt in a new documentary titled Football is For Everyone, which will air on TNT Sports on January 30.

The documentary, anchored by Owen and his son, will focus on England’s Partially Sighted Futsal Team as they prepare for the 2023 IBSA World Games, but will also include conversations regarding James’ condition.

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What Did Owen Say About His Son’s Condition?

Before its publication later this month, former England and Liverpool striker Michael Owen spoke with The Mail about being quizzed about his son’s playing career.

“It’s probably the worst question, not that I ever show it or say it to anybody,” he said.

“You find yourself either having to make an excuse or say he’s not interested and people look at you and say ‘he’s not interested in football?’ Then you have to explain everything and you end up in a conversation you don’t really want to have with anybody.”

Owen added: “When someone comes up to you in the pub and says ‘does your son play?’ you just want to change the subject. 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.”

What Did Owen Say About His Son?

 “He will never be a footballer. My son’s got an eye condition,” he told The Times. “I’ve never said this. I don’t want a big headline.

Michael Owen's Son James Owen
Michael Owen’s Son James Owen

“Clinically, he’s blind. He’s got Stargardt disease, a degeneration of his retina. I used to go and watch him and bollock him about his positioning.

“He can’t see the ball until it’s five yards away. As much as every father wants their son to play, it is almost a relief to me.

“Everyone always asks, ‘Is he going to be a footballer?’ and then I stand on the side of the pitch and hear, ‘He’s not as good as his dad.'”

By Shyam
Shyam Sharma who joined SPORTS BIG NEWS in 2021. Focuses on soccer – chiefly the Premier League, LaLiga, UEFA Champions League, Liga MX and MLS. On occasion, also covers American sports, general news and entertainment. Fascinated by the language of sport – particularly the under-appreciated art of translating cliché-speak.