'I didn't understand it' - West Ham star Antonio was left confused by JFF snub in 2012

By Sports Desk December 29, 2021

West Ham striker Michail Antonio was eager to represent Jamaica’s national team almost a decade ago but was overlooked for players in England football’s lower leagues.

Earlier this year, the England-born player was approached by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), regarding the prospect of representing the Caribbean nation, and agreed to switch nationalities.  Antonio qualifies to represent Jamaica, as both his parents were born on the island.

The striker, now 31, has confirmed, however, that it was not the country’s first attempt to recruit him and that he had in fact been contacted by the JFF while playing for Sheffield Wednesday in 2012.

“When I was 22, the manager of the Reggae Boyz, I can’t remember the name of him, came to Sheffield Wednesday to speak to players saying, ‘would you want to play for Jamaica?’ I said yes, I will come and play 100 percent,” Antonio said during an interview with Sport Bible.

“He said ok, I’ll give you a call, give you some information, bla, bla, bla.  He came and watched me play against Leeds that weekend.  I’m a very honest person, I had a stinker and I’m not going to lie, but I was an established Championship player.  I played in the Championship from 19 through to 25.  The next international break they were calling up players from League One and League 2, wingers, over me, which I didn’t understand,” he added.

In 2012, then president of the JFF captain Horace Burrell travelled to England along with head coach Theodore Whitmore and assistant coach Alfredo Montesso on a scouting mission to recruit players of Jamaican heritage.  Interestingly, Antonio played under Whitmore earlier this year, before the coach was fired in November.  

The player also dismissed reports that he was approached by the federation three years later while playing for Nottingham Forrest.  Insisting that neither he nor his agent ever received an offer at that point, despite claims to the contrary.

Antonio has been an instant hit since donning the country’s national colours, scoring twice in three games, which includes a 30-yard belter against the United States.  Despite the move coming late on in his career and leaving the England national team selection pool, he insists there are no regrets.

“It got to a stage where I just thought, ‘I'm not going to get called up’. I didn’t believe I was going to get the call.  There's loads of quality young strikers out there, he’s trying to build a team for the future. And that Tammy Abraham is young, Dominic Calvert-Lewin is young and Harry Kane is still quite young,” he added.

 “My mum was born in Jamaica and my dad was born in Jamaica. I went to Jamaica all the time when I was younger.  Why not try and see if we can get Jamaica to a World Cup after they’ve not been there for 20 years.

“No regrets whatsoever, I'm enjoying my football with them. And the difference with Jamaica, with England they got to the Euros final and stuff like that but with Jamaica, every achievement is a massive achievement.”  

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