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Queens Fish Bar 11:51 Sun Jan 5
Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
https://www.theguardian.com/football/2020/jan/05/michail-antonio-west-ham-united-fa-cup-gang-culture


I had a short temper growing up,” Michail Antonio says. “When I was younger, from primary school to 14, you just needed to call me a dickhead and I’d have a fight with you. A physical fight. I don’t know why.”

An angry Antonio is difficult to picture. From afar the West Ham forward seems the happy type, a cult hero who always has a funny goal celebration up his sleeve, and this 29-year-old father of three does not disappoint when we meet at Football Beyond Borders’ office in Brixton. Antonio has given up his Thursday evening to support FBB, an education charity that uses the power of football to support disadvantaged young people in the United Kingdom, and it does not take long to understand how much community means to him.

Antonio is from south London and he looks a natural while mentoring a group of boys who have struggled at school and are here because FBB has teamed up with the Wellness Project, a homelessness charity, to provide care packages for young people living on the streets during Christmas. “They remind me of my school days,” he says. “Growing up in south London you are naturally quite boisterous.”

Antonio speaks from the heart and he tells a story about losing the anger. “I was 14,” he says. “I’ve gone with my friends to Tooting to chill with them. Two of my friends end up going to Graveney [a school]. They stole two bikes off two kids. I was there. The next day, the idiots rode those bikes to school. They stole those bikes when we were in uniform so they knew we went to Southfields school. One guy got taken by the teacher, the other got a call saying: ‘Don’t touch the bike.’

“I get a call the next day saying everyone’s saying I stole the bike. I had to go down to the police station, explain everything. The guy who stole the bike was short and fat with canerows. I was skinny with no hair. Obviously I still had to go because five or six people said it was me and they were meant to be my friends.

“The next day I go to school angry, squaring up to everybody. I went to the last person and he’s gone: ‘Do you wanna fight me?’ I’m about to lose my head and his hand reaches into his bag. I’m running at him, my nephew pulls me back. I find out within an hour the guy had a knife. I’m about to fight this guy and he might have stabbed me. From there I’ve just been the calmest person there is.”

Not every child achieves that clarity. Antonio knows about gang culture and he despairs at the recent rise in knife crime in London, arguing that the young are being failed by the people in power. “It’s 10 times worse than when I was growing up,” he says. “We’ve completely lost touch of how we need to treat kids. London is becoming more of a business than a place for families. You can’t live here. We’re not investing in the future.

“Everyone’s trying to buy a house. Everything’s turned into business blocks. There’s hardly any parks any more. Every little space of green is turned into flats. Kids will always be there. People who are businessmen and women will turn into family. So what about kids coming up now? There is nothing for them to do.”

Michail Antonio thinks West Ham can improve after their recent poor form which cost Manuel Pellegrini his job.

Michail Antonio thinks West Ham can improve after their recent poor form which cost Manuel Pellegrini his job. Photograph: James Marsh/BPI/Shutterstock
Antonio, who was unhurt in a Christmas Day car crash, had it different. He buzzes when he remembers his childhood, which was mainly spent playing football. He loved going to youth centres or adventure playgrounds. He remembers the tuck shop. He remembers playing table tennis, pool and PlayStation. Above all, he remembers making friends. And now? “They’re all shut down or you have to pay for them and people can’t afford it any more,” Antonio says. “This is the first time I’ve played the blame game. I’m blaming the government for shutting down all these youth centres and adventure playgrounds.

“Kids now wouldn’t know about youth centres. I just feel if they had the opportunity to do that they wouldn’t be on the side of the street trying to cause chaos. But when you’re bored you just try to do things and half the time it is mischievous.”

This is where charities such as FBB have an impact. The goal is to show kids another way, to lead them down a better path, and Antonio is proof that dedication pays off. It all began for him in non-league football, with Tooting & Mitcham, and he remembers his father worrying about his future. “I was turning 16 and asking him for money,” he says. “He was like: ‘You’re old enough to work now.’ ‘Yeah, I’ll play football.’ ‘That’s not a job.’” A cheeky smile. “I went to my mum and she’d give me the money.”

Antonio’s elder brother urged him to stick at it. He worked his way up the ladder, starting with Reading, and West Ham were smart to sign him for £7m from Nottingham Forest in 2015. Antonio is unpolished but Premier League defenders hate playing against his speed and strength.

West Ham, who visit Gillingham in the FA Cup on Sunday, are on a bad run and have replaced Manuel Pellegrini with David Moyes. “This is my fifth season and every year we hit a blip,” Antonio says. “But then after that we pick up and go again. I just feel it should be a bit tighter as a team.”


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Antonio’s respect for his brother is obvious. “He’s the first person I speak to for advice,” he says. “There was the time when I thought about joining a gang. When you’re young and the girls are attracted to the bad boys, the bad boys had all the money. I didn’t have much so I wanted to attract that. But my brother was like: ‘Why would you join one gang when you know someone in that other gang? You’ll have to fight your own friends.’ That happened two months after that discussion. One of my friends stabbed another friend. He died.”

For Antonio, the key is a close support network. He remembers a teacher at Southfields, Mr Holt, who always stuck up for him when he was in trouble. The reality, though, is that not every child can count on that safety net. What happens then?

“He gets kicked out of school and you can never tell what he’s going to be,” Antonio says. “When I was younger there were kids who got kicked out of school and ended up selling drugs and ended up in prison. There are other kids who got kicked out and they managed to make their own career.

“These charities and social events help these kids shape their personality and realise that distracting the class or having a short temper is just unnecessary. Life is a results game. You turn up late for work four or five times, you get sacked. It’s doing the right things and that’s one thing I’ve learned about life. Everything is about results.”

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

ATBOG 8:05 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
“There was the time when I thought about joining a gang. When you’re young and the girls are attracted to the bad boys, the bad boys had all the money. I didn’t have much so I wanted to attract that."

This pretty much sums up why there are so many problems with some kids these days. Too many of them wanting to be badman for well over a generation and its now manifested so much that no root cause can be identified.

Hermit Road 7:49 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
eusebiovic 7:41 Sun Jan 5

As I said, there are any number of opportunities in London for young people to be involved in engaging, constructive activities. They exist, right now. Give me a postcode and I’ll tell you where they are in that area.

The agenda the Guardian are trying to push is based on the lie that these opportunities are non-existent or rare. They are not. They are plentiful.

Takashi Miike 7:46 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
a cunt who had it so bad he can now afford to write off Lamborghini's by driving them in to the front of people's houses, dressed as a snowman. fuck off

eusebiovic 7:41 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
Hermit Road 6:40 Sun Jan 5

Me too...I've helped run various youth projects when time allows...it does rely on a fair amount of volunteers and goodwill as you will no doubt be aware.

I don't think it's the governments responsibility to bring up your kids but the funding should be ringfenced for youth services and entrusted to people who do their best to point kids in the right direction or at least steer them away from the worst possible one on offer.

I don't think this amounts to government bringing up kids...it's just opening up their mind to different options and paths to the ones to and from school and around the block.

Hermit Road 7:06 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
In my experience wealth has little to do with how good a parent you are.

As for the idea that mids do bad things because theres nothing for them to do. Its bollocks. Absolute horse shit.

Give me a postcode in London in the most crime ridden areas and I'll give you a lost of concentuctive, engaging activities that teens are taking part in.

, 6:56 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
Toffs don’t bring up their kids they contract it out.

Hermit Road 6:52 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’

eusebiovic 6:45 Sun Jan 5

Good point. Having had 30 years experience of working with inner city teenagers, after first being one myself, leaves me totally unqualified to talk about them.

The government is not nor should it be, responsible for bringing up your kids. There are worldviews that do suggest the government should be responsible for bringing up your kids, it was tried for a long time in eastern Europe with terrible consequences. It is a also a worldview that infantilices people.

, 6:49 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
I wonder if the bloke that Noble apprehended on our pitch was properly parented. Or indeed if Noble himself was well brought up.

eusebiovic 6:45 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
Hermit Road 6:40 Sun Jan 5

Are you completely bald then or are you hanging on to the skirting boards out of posterity?

Be honest

Hermit Road 6:40 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
usebiovic 6:14 Sun Jan 5

It looks like Antonio had good parents, which is probably why he turned out decent.

As I said, the government is not responsible for bringing up your kids, despite what you and Antonio suggest.

, 6:34 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
The government are not responsible for bringing up our kids at all.

Is Boris a good father to all his offspring?

Vexed 6:30 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
What a load of bollocks. "I nearly had a fight with someone that possibly might have had a knife, then I instantly changed my ways" yeah good story that Michail son.

eusebiovic 6:14 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
Hermit Road 5:38 Sun Jan 5

The way it's going the government don't want to be responsible for anything but there are a lot of people who like it that way.

Some people are not responsible - if you say fuck it to the parents then you are saying fuck it to the kids.

Tough luck your parents are cunts. Suck it up you little shits!

I should know by now that anything vaguely political on WHO is a bit like watching two bald old blokes arguing over a comb...

Hermit Road 5:38 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
The government aren’t responsible for bringing up your kids.

eusebiovic 5:29 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
arsegrapes 5:24 Sun Jan 5

Who continued what Thatcher/Major started and has been kept consistent after Cameron/Clegg took over especially when a certain berk spent 8 years as Mayor of London.

All cunts

Hermit Road 5:28 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
So he had a couple of scraps and thinks he was on the verge of being Al Capone.

I like Antonio, but let's face it, the naughtiest thing he's ever done was probably getting in at 10 past 8 when his mum told him to be home by 8.

arsegrapes 5:24 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
Thanks Tony and Khan

eusebiovic 5:24 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
Antonio went to Southfields School then...just like Alan "Quagmire" Pardew!

Northern Sold 5:17 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
So reading between the lines... he had fights as a kid??


well blow me over...

claretandbluedagger 4:54 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
Pretty sure Labour are in charge of London, but it’s interesting stuff. He seems more level headed than your average footballer, though that is a low bar.

Queens Fish Bar 2:53 Sun Jan 5
Re: Antonio: ‘I’m about to fight a guy and he might have stabbed me’
the exile 1:28 Sun Jan 5

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