Former England striker Michael Owen says he wouldn’t take his children to watch a soccer match, contrasting the atmosphere at English Premier League grounds with that of the London Olympics.
The sporting spirit of fans and athletes during the Games threw a harsh light on the hostile environment common to many major English football fixtures as evidenced by Sunday’s Charity Shield clash between Manchester City and Chelsea.
“In my opinion, the whole culture of football must change if the Olympics is going to be the guiding light,” Owen told his Twitters followers on Wednesday.
“Football has lost touch with reality slightly but let’s get it right, if you were playing at an away ground and went to hug the spectators like Usain Bolt did, you would struggle to get out alive.
“Not to mention the tirade of abuse every footballer gets once in ear shot of the crowd,” added Owen, without a club since being released by Manchester United at the end of last season.
“We are talking about a totally different audience and, like it or not, a football ground isn’t the most pleasant of places in the world. I certainly wouldn’t take my kids to watch a match. All I would say is that it’s not a very fair comparison.”
However, Owen insisted the players were not solely to blame for football losing touch with its roots.
“It’s easy to lambast footballers but they are normal people,” said the former Liverpool forward.
“If they act like normal people and get treated like normal people then that would be a start.
“The ironic thing is, if you show your human side and celebrate with the fans you get a bollocking off the police and a yellow card off the ref!”
Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard, speaking on the eve of England’s friendly away to Italy in Bern on Wednesday, stressed: “Football and the Olympics are different things.
“The atmosphere at football is different completely. I enjoyed going to the Olympics and feeling that atmosphere, but in football, we’re all born with our allegiances,” he added.
“It’s almost a religion for the people who watch it, so we probably take ups and downs in different ways: the ups are great, the downs are different. That’s the beauty of the game, to a point.”