In a candid revelation, former Real Madrid, Liverpool, and Manchester United footballer Michael Owen has opened up about his son’s battle with a rare and incurable condition, Stargardt disease.
The 17-year-old James Owen was diagnosed with the genetic disorder at the age of eight, leading to a heartbreaking decision to give up on his football dreams.
Stargardt disease causes the accumulation of fatty material on the macula, a critical part of the retina responsible for sharp vision.
Despite being able to play football initially, James experienced a gradual deterioration in his sight, eventually leading to clinical blindness.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, James expressed the difficulty he faced in continuing with the sport he once enjoyed, saying, “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.”
Michael Owen, who scored 40 goals in 89 England caps and won the Ballon d’Or in 2001, shared his sadness that his son could not follow in his footballing footsteps.
“When someone comes up to you in the pub and says ‘Does your son play?’ you just want to change the subject,” Owen explained, highlighting the emotional challenges they’ve faced over the years.
He recalled James’ early potential, saying, “When he was very young and his eyes were probably slightly better than they are now… he had a right chance here of being a footballer.”
The father and son duo aim to raise awareness about Stargardt disease through a documentary titled “Football is For Everyone,” set to be released on 30 January.
The documentary promises to shed light on their personal journey and the challenges faced by individuals with Stargardt disease, emphasizing the inclusivity of football for everyone, regardless of health conditions.