On a quiet day in an international week, Michael Owen has secured many of tomorrow’s back page headlines with comments on diving (the topic of the week) at the Leaders in Football Conference.
Michael Owen, now belonging to Stoke, said the following: “It is in our game, it is happening so fast these days that it is virtually impossible to see whether there was contact. I’d say that 75% of people could stay on their feet for a penalty, and if they get touched and go down it is almost, ‘hey got touched so it’s okay to go down’.”
Then came the revelations.
“I have been guilty as well, I played at the 1998 World Cup against Argentina and I was running flat out, got a nudge, went down. Could I have stayed up? Yes probably.”
England were defeated in an epic second round match at France 98 on penalties, despite Michael Owen winning a penalty and scoring a wonder goal.
Owen diving to win a penalty came just after Argentina had taken the lead and can be seen here:
Sitting on a panel with legendary referee Pierluigi Collina, who officiated the group match against Argentina in 2002, Owen continued:
“Then four years later you [Collina] gave me a penalty again against Argentina. Again, I could have stayed on my feet, the defender’s caught me and I did have a decent gash down my shin from it but I could have stayed up.”
The former Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle, Manchester United and Stoke striker diving v Argentina for a second time, in 2002, can be seen here.
As a caveat to the above, Owen finally added on diving in football: “It’s a very difficult subject to talk about especially to people who have not played the game. There is a major skill in trying to outwit an opponent. For the actual player one against one, you’re trying to draw people, to commit them, to get into the box because you know as soon as you have got them in the box they are petrified of sticking a leg out or doing anything. It is a skill to get them one on one or isolated.”
Owen: “No-one is for blatantly diving, of course they are not, but there is a part of a striker that actually tries to entice the leg to come out to try to win a penalty. It is a skill and it has been done for years and years and I don’t think it will ever leave the game. I’m totally against diving, I have never been for it or sought to get a penalty without being touched, but you try to push the boundaries to win a game for your team without cheating.”