West Ham star Michail Antonio delighted with finally becoming a Reggae BoySunday, September 05, 2021
BY SANJAY MYERS
West Ham United striker Michail Antonio is keenly anticipating his debut for Jamaica's Reggae Boyz on the eve of their Concacaf final-stage World Cup qualifier against visiting Panama today.
“I'm excited, obviously, it's been a long time. I think it's been eight, nine months I've been trying to get out here to get some games, so it's an opportunity tomorrow (today). I don't know if I'm playing or not, but hopefully I get my run out,” the English-born footballer said yesterday.
The 31-year-old West Ham United forward, who was born in London to Jamaican parents, was previously invited to England senior team squads but did not make an appearance.
The parental connection qualified Antonio for a Jamaican passport, and after acquiring the document this year he has been eligible to represent the Reggae Boyz.
This international window provides a rare experience for Antonio because usually he would be on break while most of his club teammates are with their respective national sides.
“It's exciting, it's something new, [and] it's something I've never done before. Coming out here during the [club] season is a bit weird for me. Obviously, I'm not used to it.
“Normally, this time we're back in the UK (United Kingdom) spending time with the family. But being in Jamaica in mid-season — I'd normally come here on holiday but coming here to do work is completely different,” explained Antonio, who said his mother is from rural St Andrew while his father is a St Catherine native.
The powerfully built attacker has been in hot form to start the new season of the English Premier League. He has a league-topping four goals from three matches in addition to three assists.
It's the kind of end product that he wants to offer the Reggae Boyz Head Coach Theodore ''Tappa'' Whitmore.
“I bring experience, I bring professionalism, I can bring goals… and hold-up play. I can connect with the midfield, I can connect with the defence, I can connect with everyone, so that's what I bring,” Antonio said.
Though only days since joining his national teammates — many of whom also ply their trade in the UK — in Jamaica, he is already feeling at home.
“I played against a lot of these players, so I knew them before I got here. I might not have known them personally, but I know them on the field, so when you come here you feel like you know them anyway. I've met couple of the boys who are natives here and who were born here. And they've got a good vibe to them as well so we are all here chilling, having jokes, it's good,” he said.
This afternoon's match against Panama is scheduled to start at 5:00 inside the National Stadium. It will be played without spectators at the venue as per the Jamaican Government's protocols to reduce the risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus.
The Reggae Boyz are at the base of the octagonal qualifying league without a point after losing their opening match away to Mexico on Thursday. The Mexicans lead with three points, while Panama, United States, Honduras, Canada, Costa Rica and El Salvador have one point each.
The Concacaf final round of qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar comprises a round robin, home and away format. The top three teams in the table will progress automatically to the 2022 global showpiece, with the fourth-place finisher heading to an intercontinental play-off for one more spot.