Michail Antonio 'hated football and wanted to be injured' as he opens up on mental health

Michail Antonio of West Ham reacts during the aggregate loss to Leverkusen

West Ham forward Michail Antonio has courageously opened up about his mental health struggles and revealed there was a time when he wished for an injury to escape football.

The Premier League ace has been grappling with his mental health during a tumultuous period in his life, both professionally and personally. He's continued trying to carve out a successful career at the London Stadium while navigating through a divorce proved challenging, The Mirror report.

It wasn't until he sought help from a therapist that things began to improve, but Antonio recalls moments when he "just started disliking the game". This feeling of discontent meant he couldn't fully savour West Ham's historic victory in last season's Europa Conference League final until half a year later.

"I think we even won [a] game [in December 2022], but I didn't have the best of games. And I was just like to myself, 'I'm not enjoying football'," confessed the Hammers star on the latest episode of the High Performance podcast. "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, like, 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."

Recounting his emotional struggle, the Hammers' top Premier League scorer ever continued: "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'."

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The veteran's West Ham contract is set to expire in June next summer, though there is an option to extend by an additional 12 months if the club and he agree to trigger the clause. The ex-Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday maestro has only netted seven goals in 31 appearances this season, though three of them were netted in his past five outings.

It was only after starting therapy that Antonio was able to properly confront his issues as he explained: "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'."

Michail Antonio on the High Performance Podcast
Antonio opened up about his mental health issues and new appreciation for therapy -Credit:High Performance Podcast

He discussed how football served as an escape from issues or major personal events like his father's death, but the split from his partner, who is the mother of his four children, proved the last straw. Antonio, who signed with the Hammers back in 2015, found relief through counselling and being honest about his struggles.

"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," he continued. "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."