Guadaloupe striker Mickael Antoine-Curier has, it’s fair to say, enjoyed an eventful career. Last week’s arrival at Hamilton – his third stint with the Lanarkshire club – was the 20th move of a professional life which began in 2000 and has encompassed seven different countries.
Consequently, the 30-year-old has become accustomed to upheaval and having to adapt to quirks in the cultural life of his new surroundings.
But nothing he had previously encountered had equipped him to deal with the horrific four-month spell he endured with Kazakhstan Premier League club FC Atyrau earlier this year.
The genial, laid-back, French-born forward – who also had spells at Hibernian and Dundee – found himself ostracised by team-mates and hated not only by opposing supporters but also those of his own club as racism reared its ugly head.
“I had a really bad experience in Kazakhstan – racism to the max,” he said. “I never want to go in that country ever again. That experience was the worst I’ve ever had and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. It wasn’t just the away fans, there was racism from everybody. Some of our fans contacted the chairman and told him they didn’t want black players in the team. That’s not nice.”
Antoine-Curier found himself in solitary confinement. Apart from training sessions and matches, his time was spent under self-imposed house arrest. “There were other things which I don’t want to get into,” he said. “I was also told I could get an apartment and when I got there the owner said: “No, he can’t have it, I didn’t know he was black – I don’t want him staying here”.
“So I didn’t have a house and ended up stuck in a room that was 15 square metres. I was locked in there for 22 hours of the day because nobody could speak English, and no one would touch me or even come near me because I’m a coloured person. I never want to go back there. It was the worst four months of my life. I was called a monkey and people spat at me when I went close to the touchline.
“They were constantly calling me bad words and there were bananas thrown on the pitch. My team-mates were nice to me at first when we were at a training camp in Turkey. However, as soon as we touched down in Kazakhstan they stayed away from me. Obviously, they didn’t want to be seen with a black man. ”
Given his ordeal in Asia, it’s unsurprising that Antoine-Curier was willing Neil Lennon’s side to prevail against their Kazakh opponents tonight.
“I was supporting Celtic against Shakhter Karagandy,” he admitted. “I was so disappointed they lost the first game. I wanted them to beat them 5-0.”
Perhaps as a result of his constant travelling, Antoine-Curier is more aware than most of the need to make a good first impression, which is partly why he was so pleased to have notched the only goal in Hamilton’s 1-0 League Cup victory at Kilmarnock on Tuesday.
“I think I’ve scored in the first game for every club I’ve been at,” he said. “I’m confident in my ability. This was a great win for the club and the lads as they’ve been working really hard.
“The manager showed confidence in me by letting me start the game. I was surprised but happy about that. I think I repaid him by scoring the goal.”