KATHRYN BATTE: Michael Owen’s relationship with his ‘clinically blind’ son James, 17, is the emotional heart of new documentary ‘Football is for Everyone’… the intelligent teenager bravely opens up and is wowed by England’s partially sighted team

KATHRYN BATTE: Michael Owen’s relationship with his ‘clinically blind’ son James, 17, is the emotional heart of new documentary ‘Football is for Everyone’… the intelligent teenager bravely opens up and is wowed by England’s partially sighted team

Michael Owen has in all probability by no means been so weak. Because the cameras begin rolling in his front room, the previous England striker explains how he used to criticise his son, James, for not wanting on the digital camera when footage had been being taken.

Owen couldn’t perceive why his son’s eyes wouldn’t focus correctly. Then there have been the soccer matches. James was a proficient participant throughout his childhood however there could be occasions when his dad was left questioning why he wouldn’t take up the fitting positions or put stress on the ball.

The solutions got here when James was identified with Stargardt’s illness on the age of eight.

Stargardt is a uncommon genetic situation which happens when fatty materials builds up on the macula – the small a part of the retina wanted for sharp, central imaginative and prescient. There may be at the moment no treatment.

Owen and his son inform their story in an emotional documentary – Soccer is for Everybody – which premieres on TNT Sports activities on Tuesday night time.

Michael Owen and his son James are hoping to boost consciousness of Stargardt’s and different eye situations by way of their new documentary Soccer is For Everybody

The pair have opened up on the challenges of James' diagnosis with Stargardt's disease

The pair have opened up on the challenges of James’ prognosis with Stargardt’s illness

James continues to adjust to living with the condition - which has left him 'clinically blind' with the support of his family (centre - mother Louise and eldest sister Gemma)

James continues to regulate to dwelling with the situation – which has left him ‘clinically blind’ with the assist of his household (centre – mom Louise and eldest sister Gemma)

The programme, which they current, delves into the world of sight loss and soccer and gives an intimate and galvanizing have a look at the England Partially Sighted Futsal Crew as they equipped for the 2023 IBSA World Video games (often called the World Cup).


Stargardt illness is a progressive inherited eye situation, attributable to a defective gene that results in a build-up of fatty deposits on the macula.

It impacts one in ten thousand individuals – with the primary signs usually skilled from the age of six, although it is not normally identified till between the ages of ten and 20, explains Andrew Lotery, a professor of ophthalmology at College Hospital Southampton.

With all macular degeneration, early signs sometimes embody a blurred space within the center a part of your imaginative and prescient and colors showing much less vibrant.

The issue is that in youngsters, ‘typically the modifications to the attention are usually not textbook, making it tougher to diagnose’, says Professor Lotery.

This implies youngsters do not get the assist they want – together with recommendation on the best way to protect as a lot of their imaginative and prescient as doable: as Professor Lotery explains, central imaginative and prescient normally will get ‘progressively worse’ and most of these affected are usually not be capable to learn or drive by maturity.

The gene concerned, ABCA4, helps course of the breakdown of vitamin A inside the attention. If the gene is defective, poisonous byproducts of vitamin A construct up within the light-sensitive cells within the eye, which then corrode and die.

The documentary begins with Michael and James, now 17, taking part in soccer within the backyard. James is clinically blind however nonetheless has some peripheral imaginative and prescient – so he can nonetheless take pictures at his dad. However his dream of changing into an expert footballer ended following his prognosis.

What James didn’t realise, and what the documentary goals to shine a light-weight on, is that taking part in soccer with situations like Stargardt’s remains to be doable.

The documentary, although, is not only in regards to the Owens. On the coronary heart of the present is England’s journey to the ultimate of the World Cup and the crew members who take them there.

James and Michael are launched to Steve Daley, the supervisor of England’s partially sighted futsal crew, at Lilleshall – the FA’s previous ‘Faculty of Excellence’ which Owen attended throughout his youth.

After some reminiscing and a tour of Michael’s previous room, the pair sit down with Daley to debate his position with England. It shortly turns into clear that Daley, who beforehand performed for the Three Lions’ partially sighted crew himself, is a passionate coach who means enterprise.

The following time Michael and James meet Daley is at a coaching camp at St George’s Park. James is invited to participate in a session and shortly realises how spectacular the extent is.

It’s also the primary time he has met individuals with the identical illness or comparable eyesight situations to him.

The likes of Jake Heasman, Adam Lione and Doug Pratt is not going to be accustomed to the common viewer however by the top of the documentary it’s as when you’ve got obtained to know them personally.

Every of the gamers and their households open up on their very own journeys as England progress by way of the event. The usual of play is remarkably spectacular and James, who watches on from the stands, clearly will get swept up within the thrill of the experience.

The documentary does a unbelievable job of mixing emotion with positivity and a can-do angle. By his personal admission, Michael takes the positives from each scenario and believes James’ situation means they’re even nearer as father and son. James, in the meantime, comes throughout as an clever younger man who takes after his dad with regards to having a can-do angle.

The documentary is equalled focused on their father-son relationship as England's Partially Sighted Futsal team's progress at the World Cup

The documentary is equalled targeted on their father-son relationship as England’s Partially Sighted Futsal crew’s progress on the World Cup 

The pair are treated to a tour around Lilleshall before travelling to watch the team at St George's Park

The pair are handled to a tour round Lilleshall earlier than travelling to observe the crew at St George’s Park 

Whereas the pair bravely open up on their very own journey, they be sure that the limelight is as a lot on the England crew as it’s on them.

‘Soccer is for Everybody’ starring Michael and James Owen premieres on TNT Sports activities 1 at 11pm on thirtieth January. Signal as much as TNT Sports activities and discovery+ right here

Michael OwenEngland Soccer

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