Speaking at a conference in London on Wednesday, former England international Michael Owen admitted that he went down easily in order to win penalties against Argentina at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, although he insists that he didn't dive.
The subject of simulation, or diving, is once again a hot topic in English soccer, with several high profile instances having taken place this past weekend. "It is in our game - it is happening so fast these days that it is virtually impossible to see whether there was contact,” Owen said, adding: "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. Then four years later [referee Pierluigi Collina] gave me a penalty again against Argentina. Again, I could have stayed on my feet."
In fact, Owen argues that drawing penalties is a skill: "It's a very difficult subject to talk about, especially to people who have not played the game," 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."
Owen’s comments come at a time when his current manager, Tony Pulis of Stoke City, has spoken out loudly against simulation, calling for players that try to con referees to be fined and suspended.