It was hardly an average Monday. The PHA Group has been proudly representing BetVictor, one of the world’s largest online bookmakers, for many years, working with their charismatic chairman, Victor Chandler, on a number of occasions. But this was a first.
The company has recently signed footballing hero Michael Owen as one of its brand ambassadors. Known across the planet due to his accolades on the pitch, Owen is the perfect individual to support BetVictor’s efforts. Both parties have an insatiable appetite for sport in any form and it was one of their great passions that took me to Chester on a gloriously sunny, but incredibly windy, spring morning.
As part of the agreement, BetVictor arranged a photo and video shoot with Michael Owen to use for promotional purposes specifically throughout Asia where he has an incredible presence (only second to David Beckham on Weibo, Asia’s equivalent to Twitter).
We turned up at Manor House stables, which is part-owned by Michael Owen and a few business partners, and home to 95 stunning racehorses. The horses are cared for like Premiership footballers (in part no doubt to Michael Owen’s former support network) with an onsite vet, live-in trainers, full living accommodation for the animals and even a horse swimming pool for rehab. A number of footballers, including Ryan Giggs, Jonathan Woodgate, Wayne Rooney and Charlie Adam, and Sir Alex Ferguson have all had horses based out of Owen’s stables. Whilst having a number of animals based there himself, Michael was quick to let on that Brown Panther is his pride and joy.
As soon as he walked in, we got straight to work. Michael was a consummate professional and a pleasure to work with. His refined skill and ease in front of the camera is something that has no doubt recently been helped by his work with BT Sport.
He brought four match shirts from some of his greatest ever games to feature in the shoot. The two that really stood out to me were his jersey from Real Madrid vs Barcelona, also known as ‘el Classico’, where Madrid won 4-2 at the Bernabeu and he was on the score sheet with the likes of Zidane, Ronaldo, Raul and Ronaldinho….some of the game’s best ever players; all shining on the biggest stage of them all. The last player, Ronaldinho, also stood out in the other game. Michael brought his kit from the England vs. Brazil World Cup 2002, held in South Korea and Japan. Owen scored early on in that game, only for it to be forgotten about due to the Brazilian’s infamous lob over David Seaman to knock England out.
Michael Owen has truly been at the heart of some of the standout English footballing moments in the past 16 years, which rightly explained my excitement to meet a man who I have literally screamed at so many times on the TV due to what he can do with a round ball. His goal against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup in France is probably what he will be remembered most for. When he was just 18, he scored one of the finest England goals of all time. That was one of the great memories of my childhood.
When I was 18, my biggest worry was what my University flatmates would be like; I cannot imagine for a second having the country’s hopes and dreams on my shoulders at that age.
Michael Owen is, and always will be, an icon of British and world football. He was the last Englishman to win the Ballon d’Or, the equivalent of the Best Actor award at the Oscars. He was, and is still, known as one of the country’s brightest ever shining lights. For myself, BetVictor and The PHA Group, it was an honour to work with him. As the fans chanted in the Olympiastadion, Munich on that most famous of nights when Owen scored a hat-trick to seal a 5-1 victory over Germany, ‘there’s only one Michael Owen’.
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