I honestly don’t know where to start, or how to begin.
Only a few days are left until the start of the new season of the English Premier League, and I realized that I should have done this letter months ago, but somehow, I just…couldn’t. The mind was willing, but the heart was not. I didn’t have the proper words then. I’m not even sure if I do right now.
Denial: It is not just a river in Egypt.
I may be able to inject some humour and sarcasm now but believe me, my heart is still broken in a tiny million pieces thanks to your retirement from football last May. If you must know, I found out about it from the weirdest source: Piers Morgan. On Twitter. Yes, your fiercest, most favourite frienemy ironically delivered the heartbreaking news to me. I was thrown sideways. I imagined myself flooding the whole street with tears and throwing the most massive strop to end all strops once your retirement has been confirmed, but instead, I sat very still for a long time, staring at the mobile phone, just trying to digest what I’ve read. It wasn’t just a cruel joke, it was real, and man, was it painful.
I did not even get to properly watch your very last match as a professional football player, as my ever-useful cable sports channels did not broadcast the Stoke City match live and I had to make do with watching the game on my mobile phone’s tiny screen, praying to all football gods that will listen for the online stream to keep going. It reminded me of the times I’ve foolishly attempted to watch Liverpool/England matches online using a dial-up internet connection. Fun times.
Anyway, I’ll come clean already: Football for me will never be the same without you. The retirements of Jamie Carragher and David Beckham have already mercilessly injured my heart, but yours was quite simply the ultimate blow. The sheer finality of it is what‘s hurting me the most. There will never be enough time nor space in my blog for me to document all the funny, crazy, amazing and wonderful things I’ve done for you and for football (although someday, I may attempt it as they’ll make for interesting reading—check back regularly). You have been an inextricable part of my life for 16 years, without you even having the slightest bit of idea that a girl from the tropics of South East Asia is ever so thankful for your very existence. I may not have always agreed with your professional choices, but I’ve never stopped believing in you and having your back. That’s what a true-blue, ride-or-die supporter is all about.
All those years have never been easy, but you know what? I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Every smile, laugh, cheer, tear, eye-roll, hissyfit, heart-in-throat moments and the like? All worth it. You were worth it.
Believe me, my answer to the question of, “Who’s your all-time favourite football player?” will always, always be the same.
Michael James Owen.
The English Wonderboy. The Babyfaced Quicksilver Assassin. St. Michael. MO.
Cristiano Ronaldo? Lionel Messi? Nah, they just can’t hold a candle on you. Granted, they are both amazingly-talented footballers, but they were not the ones who inspired me and made me love the beautiful game—with all its glory and pitfalls—as much as you have.
So how am I going to face this new season of football, knowing fully well that I won’t be seeing you work your magic on the pitch anymore? I suppose I’ll take it one match at a time. It will be difficult, but I’ll get through this (get the violins out).
It is a bit comforting to know that I’m part of this generation of football fans that was lucky enough to have witnessed your incredible career. I will always hope and pray that one day, I will be able to see you play football in person—I care not whether it is for a massive testimonial or just a simple 5-a-side match—the football lover in me shall never rest until that mission has been accomplished.
And yes, I shall be looking forward to your new career as a football pundit and commentator. What an excellent choice as I, along with many other fans, consider you as one of the very few “thinking footballers”—a rare breed that is slowly but surely facing extinction. I don’t even get the channel you’ll be on over here, but I can always find ways to follow you. You’re worth it.
See the effect you have on me? And I’m just a speck in the ocean of your many fans, those who truly support you, believe in you, and accept you for who you are—hamstrings and all.
Your signature chant is true, after all.
There’s Only One Michael Owen.
Thank you for everything, Michael. Enjoy the new chapter of your life.
Any chance of releasing an updated version of your autobiography Off The Record? I’m extremely curious to know your side of the story regarding your time at Newcastle United and that very controversial move to Manchester United. Please consider.
(Still your biggest fan this side of the world.)