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Michael Owen says he’d ‘give his eyes’ to son James if he could as he’s left blind from incurable condition
24 January 2024, 12:15
Michael Owen has said he would ‘give his eyes’ to his son if it meant he could see again after he was diagnosed with an incurable condition.
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James Owen, 17, was diagnosed with a rare incurable condition at the age of eight called Stargardt disease.
Stargardt is a rare genetic condition that occurs when fatty material builds up on the macula - the small part of the retina needed for sharp, central vision. It currently has no cure.
The macula is largely important for activities such as reading and writing.
Speaking about his son’s condition, Michael Owen has said he would 'swap eyes' with James if it means he could see again.
"I found it difficult at the start. You obviously want your kids to live the perfect life but it's just a little bump in the road in James' life.
"Yes it's something he has to live with and adapt to but that's it. You know, I have one or two negatives in my life and he will have one or two more negatives in his life. I very much see it like that," the football legend told Mailsport.
"I'm downplaying it all, obviously he means more to me than anything and if I could give him my eyes and do a swap I would but they are the cards he's been dealt and there is no point regurgitating it throughout you life.
"You can't be thinking why me and all the rest of it. James absolutely doesn't do that. He did at the start a little bit but as he says now, he's a positive lad."
James had shown signs of promise on the football pitch but his diagnosis cut any hope of going professional short.
He was a good player and Michael had hopes for his career but his family started to worry when they noticed he was struggling to track passes or spot player movements further away.
Michael said he would often get frustrated when taking a family photograph as James always seemed to look to the side of a camera, rather than straight at it.
James said that the condition makes his central vision blurry but he has “good peripheral vision”.
Noticing things like colour instead of details such as facial features helps him navigate the world around him, he added.
It comes after Michael said that he prays every night for a cure for his son’s condition.
The former England striker told Good Morning Britain: “You want to take all the pain away from him, you feel sorry for him every time he goes to hospital and gets new drops that make his eyes sting and he's crying all day.
"As a parent myself and my life probably felt much worse than James's, you want to take all the pain away from him, but James was born that way, he doesn't know any different.
"I think it was quite hard for us when we found out that this was an incurable disease at the moment," Owen added.
"We live in an age with stem cells that we go to bed every night praying something will be there to cure him, but at the moment, it's a condition that regresses over time."
Michael said of the early signs his son was struggling in football: “I was thinking it was his fault back in the day, of course I was, especially on the football field when I knew where he should have been standing and what he should have been doing, and he wasn't doing it.
"I'm not a pushy parent but I would stand on the side lines so I would do a little whistle so he would know to move."
James earlier revealed his experience with the condition alongside his dad.
“People do expect me to be going into football and I did used to really to enjoy it,” he told Mail Sport.
“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.”
His father also previously opened up about the struggle of being repeatedly asked about his son’s football potential.
“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.”
Despite the initial challenge of having to wave goodbye to his football dream, James is now looking forward to the future.
The pair are now trying to raise awareness for Stargardt’s and other eye conditions in their new documentary Football is for Everyone.