Former England striker Michael Owen has said he would do anything to help his son James see again and would “give him my eyes” if he could.
James Owen, 17, was diagnosed with the degenerative eye condition Stargardt disease when he was 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 said on the podcast that his central vision is “blurry” and that he struggles to see different colours and lights, although he has good peripheral vision.
As a child, James had aspired to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Terry, who began his career at Everton before playing for Bradford, Chester and Rochdale. But it was on the football pitch that the first clues regarding James’ condition emerged.
Although he was good on the ball, James struggled to follow the ball or player movements, and the issue only became more pronounced on bigger pitches.
Michael also noticed his son not looking at the camera when posing for photographs, and they were referred to an eye specialist who gave James his diagnosis – news Michael Owen said was “a hammer blow for any parent”.
The condition is inherited, and Michael Owen said he felt guilt when he learned more about it.
“As a parent you just want everything to be perfect – and he is – but of course it was a sad time,” he said. “Thinking about the future – will he be able to drive? Will he be able to work? All these things run through your mind.”
James initially struggled to come to terms with the diagnosis, but has learned to adapt to his condition and uses different techniques to handle daily life.
“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 said: “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.”
Michael and his son will release a new documentary, Football Is For Everyone, telling James’ story and following the visually impaired futsal England team as they compete at the 2023 World Cup in Birmingham.
James joined a training session, but admitted it did not go entirely to plan.
“I actually got megged and then scored an own goal,” he said. “It was not a great moment.”
The documentary will be released on January 30 via TNT Sports and Discovery Plus.