In a heart-wrenching revelation, former football star Michael Owen has shared his deep emotional struggle after learning that his 17-year-old son, James, is battling Stargardt disease, a degenerative eye condition diagnosed when he was only eight.
Speaking openly on BBC’s Access All podcast, Owen admitted that the initial diagnosis was a “hammer blow” and described the period as a “sad time” when contemplating James’s future. The ex-Liverpool legend expressed his parental anguish, pondering questions like, “Will he be able to drive? Will he be able to work? What jobs will there be for him?” These concerns are natural for any parent confronted with the uncertainty surrounding a loved one’s health.
In a touching display of paternal love, Owen revealed that he would “swap eyes” with his son without hesitation if it meant relieving him of the condition and taking away his pain. He emphasized his willingness to go to great lengths, stating that he would “pay every cent” and “walk the other end of the world” to see his son restored to full sight.
Stargardt disease, an inherited eye condition causing central vision blurriness, currently lacks a cure, though researchers are exploring gene and drug therapies. Despite the challenges, James maintains a positive outlook on life. He acknowledges his visual impairment but doesn’t let it define him, emphasizing that people meeting him wouldn’t suspect he has a visual impairment.
Michael Owen praised James for his mental strength and positive mindset, affirming that, among his four children, James’s future is the least of his worries. Despite the condition, James remains resilient and determined not to let it hinder his ambitions.
A football enthusiast like his father and grandfather, James aspired to become a footballer. However, recognizing the limitations imposed by his condition, he transitioned to playing partially sighted futsal, a modified version of football suitable for those with visual impairments. Although he found success on the smaller pitch, James has decided to shift his focus to business, aspiring to be a business owner in the future.
Michael Owen, known for his illustrious football career with clubs like Real Madrid, Newcastle United, and Manchester United, jokingly remarked that James might take over the “family empire” when he retires. Despite the challenges, the Owen family continues to face the future with unwavering support, love, and hope for breakthroughs in research that could one day offer a solution for Stargardt disease and similar conditions.