Michail Antonio says he is in therapy after admitting he’s fallen out of love with football

    West Ham player Michail Antonio says he is in therapy after admitting he’s fallen out of love with football and ‘prayed for injuries’.

    Michail Antonio is getting help due to losing interest in football to the point where he wished for an injury that would keep him out of the game.

    The 34-year-old first joined the Hammers nine years ago, following a remarkable journey from non league club Tooting & Mitcham United, and then spells at Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, and Nottingham Forest.

    However, despite his long stint in the Premier League, Antonio started experiencing mental health issues triggered by his divorce from his ex-wife.

    He admitted that he began to develop negative feelings towards the sport during a period of extreme exhaustion caused by personal matters outside of football.

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    Even during a time that should have been one to celebrate – winning the Europa Conference League with West Ham in 2023 – he was actually emotionally drained.

    ‘I was going through my divorce and stuff, and I honestly couldn’t get my head around it,’ Antonio shared on the High Performance podcast. ‘After we won, the whole team went out, the gaffer (David Moyes) 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.’

    ‘It wasn’t until probably December where I was in a better place where I was like “Oh my God, I’ve won a European championship”.’

    Antonio felt overrun by a feeling of apathy towards his playing career and recalled how in one game in December 2022, he couldn’t stop thinking ‘I’m not enjoying football.’

    ‘During the game, I was like, ‘I’m really not enjoying this’. I just felt quite negative. I’m a very positive person myself.

    ‘I didn’t score from December until I think it was March, April time. And I just felt run-down. And then I went away with Jamaica because I was enjoying football with Jamaica for some strange reason. But I actually prayed for an injury.

    ‘I was like, “I just want to get injured, I want some time off”.

    ‘And then I went away with Jamaica and I did my medial (knee ligament, in November 2023).

    ‘I was thinking to myself, “I’m 33. I can’t afford to be performing this way, otherwise I’m not going to get another contract”.

    ‘So, it’s all those things that spiral through your mind. You’re thinking, “Is this the end for me? Is this my football career over?”‘

    He first looked for support in December 2022, meeting with some therapists after going to his club’s doctors and the PFA before ultimately deciding to take the next step independently.

    Antonio stated that the club and international demands on players’ schedules was one of the contributing to his feelings about football, adding that: ‘because football’s just constant, you’re constantly just in it.

    ‘As soon as your life depends on it, as soon as you have people constantly berating you and criticising you, it becomes a job.

    ‘So, it doesn’t matter how good it is, it doesn’t matter how much you love the game, it becomes an actual job for you.’

    ‘I started therapy because I was really struggling. And how I grew up, it was never a thing. 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”.’

    Prior to undergoing the experience for which he went to therapy for, Antonio saw the game as his ‘getaway’, and what whatever personal strife he had been suffering, ‘I went to football, and I could black it out for the two hours that I was there or the four hours that I was there.’

    ‘But then 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,’ Antonio added.

    ‘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’s therapy sessions are on a weekly basis, and will look to continue therapy for another two years.

    Antonio says that while he usually comes across as a happy and confident person, therapy helped him to understand that he has difficult relaxing within himself.

    ‘Because growing up there was a lot of traumas that I dealt with,’ Antonio added. ‘So, I avoid sitting within myself. And that’s one thing that I learned via therapy because it was true.’

    He struggled to make friendships growing up and got caught up with the wrong crowd as a teenager, another potential contributing factor in struggles with his self-esteem.

    ‘Let’s just say I struggled to make friendships when I was in primary school,’ Antonio noted. ‘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.’

    Since therapy, he has found himself in a better place, and is keen to continue his career for another ‘three years’.

    Fans gave their reaction as Michail Antonio says he is in therapy after admitting he’s fallen out of love with football…

    @johnjamesl: Good on @Michailantonio for having the courage to open up about this – glad to see he has been able to turn his life around this season⚒⚒

    @Thomaski98: Been good 2nd half season

    @NigelAd27749696: That’s the side of football we don’t see, can be the reason for players losing form etc, hopefully he has a good end to his career and he enjoys his life thereafter

    @nellisadvocate: proper guy tbh hope he gets better

    @Johnny_Bubble_: Stay strong Michail! Destroyed Leverkusen that first half, unplayable- they even had to take off their CB, he was terrified!

    @rambler808: So sorry to hear this. Take care.

    @FPL_Cockney: All behind you big man

    @LonEngWhu23: We need a proper striker next season brought in

    @Redmag1c_: Releasing all the frustration on the pitch against City. We will be there

    @JordanHarley67: The side of professional football we don’t see. People are so quick to judge for players not hitting form or not seeming themselves on the pitch, but they are normal human beings just like us. Keep strong Micky ❤️ @Michailantonio

    @ConnorWHU_: You can see it on the pitch at times, we don’t see any of his amazing celebrations he gets frustrated easily. Best wishes Antonio.

    @Char_WHUFC: The main man at West Ham

    @iron__Tom: Frustrating player at times but always be a club legend ❤️

    @_maxwhufc_: i’ve never felt worse for the guy he got sm hate and nobody knew what he was going through

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