Stoke City striker Michael Owen says that comments he made about diving have been sensationalised and ignore the distinction between going down without contact and drawing a foul from an opponent.
Speaking at a panel alongside superstar referee Pierlugi Collina and Wigan manager Roberto Martinez, Owen made reference to two penalties he won against Argentina at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.
“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 I got touched so it’s OK 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.”
The former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker said that while he is totally against diving when there is no contact he believes it takes ‘major skill’ to draw an opponent into making contact and going down – and it is this comment that seems to have drawn the ire of critics and fans.
On Twitter following the panel he said, “Very rarely does someone hit you with such force that it causes you to hit the deck. But where do you draw the line on whether it’s a dive?
“Legendary ref, P.Collina says a player has every right to go down if touched provided that player doesn’t use an unnatural stride to trip.
“I have to agree. I’ve earned penalties in 2 World Cups both against Argentina where I was touched yet could of stayed up if I had tried.
“I think it’s falling over or diving without being touched to con the referee that most people want stamped out.
“Anyway, have to admit I’m nervous about how tomorrow’s news will be reported. Never nice to read things about yourself that you never said.”
Two hours later he took to Twitter to bemoan the reporting of the issue.
“And so the sensationalising has begun (as predicted). Shame you can’t have a good, honest debate in this country without people who have no idea whatsoever about the game being in a position to fire out news that is a sideshow to what was said. If they did understand football then the comments they are sensationalising would appear towards the end of the article below the more important points.
“Oh, and by the way, if you can’t see for yourself that I could of stayed on my feet against Argentina without me having to say it then you really are struggling to understand the game! I repeat I’ve never gone down and won a penalty without being touched as that would be diving!”
Owen’s manager Tony Pulis called for players who dove to be banned at the weekend, wanted to stress that there is a difference in the perception of the supporter and the player in going down under light contact.
“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,” 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.
“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,” he said.
Owen’s comments come during a time when diving is in the spotlight again following comments from Sergio Aguero that English players had ‘privileges’ not given to foreign players due to their reputation for diving.
Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson was terse in his response to Aguero’s claims saying, “as a subject it is not worth going down because we have known for quite a few years there are plenty of players diving and, you have to say, particularly foreign players.”
Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale have also drawn the ire of pundits after comically misjudged dives at the weekend.