West Ham star Michail Antonio opens up on his mental health battle

‘Football put me into depression’: West Ham star Michail Antonio reveals he almost quit West Ham and retired from football amid fears he ‘couldn’t deal’ with the demands placed on professional footballers

  • West Ham striker Michail Antonio has opened up on his mental health struggles
  • The 32-year-old has revealed he came close to retiring while at the Hammers
  • Antonio began to develop issues after a lack of frequent game time at West Ham
  • The Jamaican international explained that ‘football put him into depression’ 

Michail Antonio has revealed he was close to quitting football after being sent into a spiral of depression caused by inconsistent minutes at the Hammers earlier in his career. 

The 32-year-old explained the support of his close family and playing football helped him to bounce back and reinvigorate his career with Antonio cementing his status as one of the top-flights most formidable attackers in recent seasons.

The West Ham star opened up on his mental health struggles ahead of the Premier League’s six-week World Cup break with Antonio staying in England after Jamaica failed to qualify for the tournament.

West Ham striker Michail Antonio has opened up on his struggles with mental health

The 32-year-old revealed on a podcast that football placed him into a spell of depression

Speaking about his struggles with depression, Antonio said: 

‘I’m a person that normally bounces back from things, quite positive and never let much hold me down. There was one time where it really affected me. 

‘I’m a person that like to control things – if I feel that I can control things then I’ll deal with things. But this time where it did hit me, I felt like I fell into a depression.

Antonio developed issues after a lack of playing time at West Ham

‘I started the very first game of the season. The next game, I wasn’t in the squad. The next game, I started. The next game, I wasn’t in the squad. 

‘Then I came off the bench. The next game I started and got pulled off at half-time. And that just kept happening. 

‘Even if I was playing well, it just kept happening to me. No matter what I was doing, I wasn’t good enough. If I was having a great game, it wasn’t good enough. So I just felt powerless, and there was nothing I could do,’ he said.

Former Hammers boss Slaven Bilic brought Antonio to the club in 2015 as the club looked to Antonio to provide goals. Since joining he has scored 66 goals in 248 appearances. 

Antonio further continued to explain the pressures he placed on himself to become a regular starter at West Ham, and that these demands caused him to break down in tears as he explained fears about retiring from football during his peak career years.  

‘I’m a person that if I’m playing well, then I expect to play because I’m doing the job that you’re putting me out there to do. If I’m not, then it’s not a problem, I’ll be on the bench and wait for the opportunity and then I’ll take it and be back in the team. 

Antonio revealed that his mental struggles saw him contemplate retiring from football

‘But the fact they were putting me in and pulling me out and just basically running me around the shops; I couldn’t deal with that because it was alien to me.

‘There was one day where that kept happening to me, and I was just laying in bed and tears started streaming from my eyes and I couldn’t control them. I don’t like showing emotion and I like dealing with things, but tears were just falling from my eyes in bed. 

‘My Mrs was laying next to me in bed and I didn’t say anything, just tears falling – she looked up and said ‘Are you alright?’ and I said yeah, I’m fine, but she said ‘You can’t be fine, you’re crying’, and I just said ‘I don’t know if I want to play football anymore’.

Former West Ham manager Slaven Bilic brought Antonio to the London club in 2015

Experienced forward Antonio has scored 66 goals in 248 appearances for West Ham United

‘I’m a very positive person and if something is not making me happy but making me sad, then change it. 

‘I said to her ‘I don’t know if I want to play anymore, I’m thinking about retiring’, because I knew if I went to West Ham and said I want to leave, they weren’t going to want to sell me. 

‘So I was honestly just thinking about leaving football and retiring,’ said Antonio.

England U21  player Marvin Sordell retired from football aged 28 due to mental health issues

Should he have retired then Antonio would have been one of the most high-profile footballers to call it quits on his career due to mental health issues. 

Former Watford and Burnley forward Marvin Sordell retired in 2019 at the age of 28 while at Burton Albion and citing mental health issues as the main reason behind the decision.

Antonio was close to joining the camp of early retirees but explains the help from his family and more chances for West Ham helped him get back on the pitch and playing his best football.

Antonio explained his family’s support helped him return to playing his best football

‘Me talking to my Mrs, my brother and my agent took a bit of the weight off me, enough for me to keep going to training and stuff like that, but what really made a difference for me was being able to go out there and play, and kept playing consistently. 

‘It became more of a norm as a footballer – when you’re playing well you get your opportunity and you keep playing. When life and football became more normal, then I dealt with it and that’s how I managed to pull myself out. 

‘The football put me into depression, but the football also pulled me out.

‘That one time, I needed to talk. Even though I didn’t want to because my wife had to say to me ‘no, you’re not okay’, but as soon as I spoke to her, the next day I spoke to my agent and that same day I spoke to my brother and it did help me massively.

Antonio was speaking on the Original Penguin X Campaign Against Living Miserably Under The Surface podcast.

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