Former England striker Michael Owen admitted on Wednesday he had fallen down to win penalties when he could have stayed on his feet, but said he would never dive to win a penalty for any side.
The former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle United striker is attempting to revive his career at Stoke City after an injury-blighted spell at Manchester United ended in the off-season.
During a discussion on diving, Owen gave an unusually honest answer to delegates as part of a three-man panel at the Leaders In Football business convention at Stamford Bridge, home of current UEFA Champions League cup holders Chelsea.
Sitting alongside Pierluigi Collina, the former referee who is now UEFA’s chief refereeing officer, Owen said: “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 percent of players could stay on their feet for a penalty, and if they get touched and go down it is almost, ‘hey [I] got touched so it’s okay to go down,’” he said.
“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,” Owen said.
Looking at Collina, Owen added: “Then four years later you 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.”
“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,” Owen explained.
“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,” he said.
“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,” he said. “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,” Owen said.