London: Striker Michael Owen has claimed three-quarters of players who go down under a challenge to win penalties, are capable of staying on their feet, and admitted he did fall on the ground with utmost ease too during his playing days with England to win penalty kicks.
Owen admitted he was guilty of going down under minimal contact in his own career, most notably when winning penalties in successive World Cup finals against Argentina, in 1998 and 2002, though he maintained both challenges were legitimate fouls.
The former Liverpool striker said maximising challenges such as those from Roberto Ayala (Saint-Etienne, 1998) and Mauricio Pochettino (Sapporo, 2002) was a legitimate skill distinct from blatant diving.
Owen, perhaps England’s finest exponent of the striker’s art of drawing fouls, said that in his view blatant diving was a foreign import, but defended players who explored the grey areas inside the penalty box.
Speaking at the Leaders in Football Conference at Stamford Bridge, where he was on a panel alongside celebrated Italian referee Pierluigi Collina,
“I’d say that 75 per cent of people could stay on their feet [when they get challenged] for a penalty, and if they get touched and go down it is almost, ‘He got touched, so it’s OK to go down’,” the Telegraph quoted Owen, as saying.
“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,” he added.
“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,” he said.
Owen added: “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.”