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West Ham’s Michail Antonio reveals he is having therapy after ‘disliking football’

Michail Antonio sits on the West Ham bench
Michail Antonio has opened up about his mental health struggles - PA/Zac Goodwin

West Ham striker Michail Antonio has revealed he is having therapy after falling out of love with football.

The 34-year-old, who was called up for England early in his career but now represents Jamaica, has opened up about how the end of his marriage and childhood trauma left him with mental health struggles and unable to celebrate West Ham’s Europa Conference League final victory last season.

Speaking on the High Performance Podcast to presenter Jake Humphrey and author Damian Hughes, Antonio has revealed how off-pitch problems left him “mentally drained” and hoping he would get injured so he didn’t have to play.

“I just started disliking the game. I began therapy because I was really struggling,” Antonio said. “I was going through my divorce and stuff, and I honestly couldn’t get my head around it. After we won (the Europa Conference League), the whole team went out, the gaffer went out, got steaming, a couple of boys didn’t sleep for two days, just got drunk for two days – I was asleep on the coach and went back to the hotel.

“I was just mentally drained because of everything that was going on outside of my football and then I went back to the hotel and went to sleep while everyone was out partying.”

Antonio’s issues spiralled around Dec 2022 when he realised that he was no longer enjoying football. While playing with Jamaica offered him something of an escape, he hoped injury would strike to prevent him having to return to the Premier League – only for a medial ligament injury to bring a reality check that he was unlikely to get a new contract unless he stepped up his game.

To compound matters, Antonio also split up with wife Debbie Whittle after they married in 2017.

Antonio sought the help of the club’s medical staff while West Ham and the Professional Footballers’ Association were also able to offer specialist counsellors, but Antonio branched out to find his own therapist.

“I started therapy because I was really struggling. And how I grew up, it was never a thing,” he said. “I thought therapy was for crazy people. But therapy changed my life. At first it was awkward, I’m not going to lie. You’re sat in the room, someone was there and goes, ‘How are you?’

“And your natural response is ‘Fine’. So he’s like, ‘So why are you here?’ I was like, ‘To be honest, like, football, I’m struggling with football, I split up with my missus’.”

He added: “My life was a bit turned upside-down because obviously I’m splitting up with my missus, my wife, and also, I’m not performing on the pitch and things are just not going well for me.

“And then I’m a person where I’d never cry. And as I was talking to him, I just burst into tears. It was uncontrollable. That gave me some type of relief. And then like my chest felt like clear.”

Antonio also explained how childhood experiences had shaped his mistrust of people after he was betrayed by those he thought were close to him.

“There were certain things that happened in my childhood,” he said. “Let’s just say I struggled to make friendships when I was in primary school. There was no one that was, I would say, my best friend until I was like 12 and then that person kind of left.

“When I was 14, I thought these people were my friends, these guys end up stealing a bike. The people got caught with the bikes.

“They grouped up and said ‘Michail did it’. I’ve been friends with them for three years, going to school every day with them, so it just made me mistrust people.”

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