Former England striker Michael Owen has said he would give son James “my eyes” to help him see fully again.
James Owen, 17, was diagnosed with the degenerative eye condition Stargardt disease aged just eight.
Speaking on the BBC Access All podcast, former Liverpool forward Michael Owen said: “You want to swap with him; if I could give him my eyes and we’d do a swap then I would tomorrow of course… I would pay every cent I’ve got to make James see again.”
James added his central vision is “blurry”, and that he has difficulty in seeing different colours and lights, although he retains good peripheral vision.
"Football, he was brilliant at it… He could do anything!" 🙏@themichaelowen opens up about his son, James' love for football & the impact Stargardt disease had on James' childhood…— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) January 24, 2024
🎬 Tuesday 30th January | 11pm | @tnsports 1 & @discoveryplusUK pic.twitter.com/JPOQSE2rLG
Growing up, James had hoped to follow Michael — who made his name at Liverpool — and grandfather Terry, who started his career at city rivals Everton, as a professional footballer.
But it was while playing the game that evidence of his condition emerged, with James starting to have difficulty following the ball and the movements of his team-mates.
The condition is inherited, with Michael Owen saying he feared the consequences for James’ adult life.
“As a parent you just want everything to be perfect — and he is — but of course it was a sad time,” said the 44-year-old.
“Thinking about the future — will he be able to drive? Will he be able to work? All these things run through your mind.”
James, however, said he had learned how to adapt to his condition after struggling with the initial diagnosis.
“I’ll notice what colour my dad’s jumper is,” he said. “So if I ever go out, then I would be able to recognise him from the colour, not from his face because I struggle with detail.”
Michael Owen added: “He’s just mentally very, very strong. He’s got a great mindset. I’ve got four children and I’m probably the least worried about James’ future.”
The Owens will release a new documentary, Football Is For Everyone, via TNT Sports and Discovery Plus on January 30.
It will tell James’ story and follow the visually impaired England futsal team as they compete at the 2023 World Cup in Birmingham.
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