Archive for March, 2013

The original Boy Wonder

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013 March 20th, 2013 Aabhas Sharma

The English media are notorious to hype their football players – especially teenage prodigies. Anyone with a fair amount of talent scores a wonder goal in his teens is often hyped up as the “next big thing”. Some live up to the hype and make a good career out of it while others just fizzle out. And then there was Michael Owen.

Owen, who announced his retirement from international football yesterday, was a player worth getting all the hype that came his way. The Boy Wonder, they called him and he truly was. The Boy Who Shook The World were the headlines when he scored THAT goal against Argentina. He was one of those players – and many Liverpool fans would admit – who made you follow football or a particular club, he really was that good.

Owen burst on to the scene in 1998 at St Etienne during the World Cup. A year before, he had made his debut for Liverpool and was talked about as a future star. But on that night when England were playing fierce rivals Argentina, the 18-year-old who scored one of the finest goals in World Cup history.

There was no looking back from that moment on. Owen continued to score goals for Liverpool and help them win trophies and also won Ballon D’Or or the European footballer of the year in 2001. He scored two in the FA Cup final in 2001 against Arsenal to dramatically win the trophy for his club. He scored a memorable hat-trick in England’s mauling of Germany in a World Cup qualifier.

Owen had the knack of making the most difficult thing in football – putting ball in the back of the net – look ridiculously easy. Some people are born to write, some are born to act, some destined to sing, while there are very few who are born to score goals. It’s a cliché used for footballers but it holds true for Owen, he was born to score goals.

After seven years at Liverpool, Owen moved to Real Madrid for a fee of 8 million pounds. This was the “Galacticos” era at Madrid – Raul, Ronaldo, David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo were the illustrious names in that team. Owen, till that point, could genuinely stake a claim for being an equal in that elite group of football players. But unlike those great players, Owen often doesn’t get the acclaim he deserves.

Injuries, mainly after2005, the year when he moved to Newcastle United from Real Madrid took a toll on his career. Newcastle fans never took a liking to him as they thought he was a waste of money, a perma-crock who sat on the bench or sidelines and picked up a hefty pay packet. After four forgettable years blighted by injury, Owen moved on a free transfer to Manchester United. That transfer burnt all the bridges he had with Liverpool, the fans called him a traitor, Judas for wearing the red of Manchester after being revered in the red of Liverpool.

Owen at the point had a chance to go to Hull City, a club which got relegated after just one year in the Premier League, or join Manchester United. Liverpool allegiances aside, it actually was a no-brainer. But he received a torrent of abuse on Twitter, became the butt of all jokes because of his injuries. The move to United didn’t turn out be a great one – although he scored a memorable goal in the Manchester derby and scored in the league Cup final – and Owen was a bit-part player, when he was fit.

Injuries ruined Owen and it’s a pity because Owen shouldn’t be remembered as someone who was injured more often than not. It doesn’t do justice to someone of Owen’s ilk. He will go down as one of the best strikers of his generation.

In his day, Michael Owen was a delight to watch, a goal scorer who terrorized defences all over the world. The ending might have not been what Owen would have thought it would be like but Owen’s story is what most young footballers dream of – play for the biggest clubs in the world and score goals for which people will always remember you for.