West Ham star Michail Antonio sets up academy combining football and education

Michail Antonio Football Academy

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West Ham striker Michail Antonio has set up an academy to help young people combine football and education. The southeast London based camp will allow teenagers aged 16-19 to pursue a football career while studying for a diploma.

Antonio is keen to give back to the community after making his way up the football pyramid from non-league to the Premier League. The 32-year-old scored 13 goals across all competitions last season, including two during West Ham’s run to the Europa League semi-final. 

The former Nottingham Forest man felt that there were few opportunities for young people when he was growing up in south London and, alongside friend Nathan Scarlet-Bryant, has decided to set up an academy aimed at young adults. Students will study for a personal training, business administration, or sports science diploma alongside full-time football, including FA Youth Cup appearances.  

Scarlet-Bryant, who also revealed plans to extend the academy into the women’s game, told Express Sport: “He wanted to create something that wasn’t around at the start of his career – something with education as well as full-time football. They will study a personal training course, a sports science course, or a business admin course. It’s about giving an opportunity to the ones who don’t otherwise get much of an opportunity. The education gives them another avenue as well as playing football. 

“They will train four days a week and they will play a game once a week. We will enter the FA Youth Cup. They will study in the morning, train in the evening, have a game on Wednesdays and Fridays. We’re looking to take on 45 boys to start off with in our first year. 

“It’s long-term. Michail wants to expand and play in other locations. We also want to expand it into the women’s game. That’s something we’re looking to do in the next year or so. We also want to look at doing pre-academy ages, so for seven and eight-year-olds.”

Antonio will have a hands-on role with the academy and will make regular visits to take part in sessions with youngsters. 

“It’s taken about eight months to put into place. We sat down around October last year and we were just putting ideas across. We talked about what collaborations we could have and how we could empower the youth,” Scarlet-Bryant, who is manager of Cobham U23s, continues. 

“It came from there, we had a meeting. We sorted out what we could do and ways that he could help. He wants to be involved in the academy not just have it under his name. He’ll come down when possible and take part in sessions. He’s given us all the resources that we could possibly need.”

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Scarlet-Bryant is keen to point out that not all aspiring footballers embark on the journey Antonio has enjoyed over the last decade. Antonio was playing for Tooting & Mitcham Football Club in south London when he was spotted by Reading, who gave him his first professional contract. 

The academy has been set up to offer several opportunities in life for the students. Six-times Jamaica international Antonio had very few of those chances available while growing up, and is keen for that to change. 

Scarlet-Bryant added: “Some boys want to do football but we have to be realistic. Not everyone is going to play professional football or sign for a professional academy. We will have semi-pro pathways and we have courses that can lead you onto university courses. 

“In the third year, we have a link with Loughborough university, so the boys can actually study on our side. Some of them might not even want to play football – they might want to become physiotherapists or they might want to work in media. It just gives them more of an option. 

“Ten years ago, there were no opportunities. There were few opportunities but things are getting better because people are working together more. Before, everyone was on a solo thing but now everyone wants to come together and help. Everyone has the same aim – to help.”

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