Paul Watson - Up Pohnpei
Hey look, I read a book that isn’t scifi or fantasy related. Fancy that.
So I was browsing reddit 5 days ago, as I usually do. A film student by the name of Matt Conrad had posted this AMA about how he was a “novice soccer coach that led the ‘worst team in the world’ to their first ever international victory”. Football is big in my family - I refereed for many years, up until knee problems got in the way, and my dad still does referee. We all support Nottingham Forest. Understandably, this AMA took my interest and learned that Matt Conrad and his friend Paul Watson flew to a small island in Micronesia called Pohnpei, and formed a team with themselves as coaches. Matt filmed the latter part of their journey (You can read more about that here), and sports writer Paul wrote and published a book about it, which, to my luck, is readily available on amazon kindle for $9.99.
It all started out with the two football-mad men wanting to play internationally, mostly for the love of the game and because they weren’t good enough to play for England. Or any English team, for that matter. That got dashed fairly quickly upon realising that they would probably need to give up british citizenship to play, and, more importantly, these teams needed dedicated coaches, not players. This led them to Pohnpei, the only place to have never won a game against another country’s team.
Pohnpei, as I mentioned before, is in Micronesia, which, if you didn’t know, is also one of the wettest places on the planet. It’s raining constantly - the Englishmen thought they knew rain but they had another thing coming. Combined with that, they were met with several financial difficulties as they tried to establish funding (much of it came from their own pockets) and met with a near-infuriating laid-back island attitude towards commitment to the team. I was not surprised to learn that FIFA was an uninterested bureaucratic nightmare that gave them absolutely no help.
Regardless, Matt and Paul managed to get a decent team together, they managed to form a league, and they managed to get their team to Guam to do a 3 game tour. Everything culminates with that tour - if they are marginally successful, then Guam has pledged funding to get proper fields and an international team for Micronesia going.
I really enjoyed reading this. It’s a great bucket list story for sports fans like my dad and myself. The book itself is fairly simplistically written - but I guess that’s to be expected and I don’t think it takes away from the story-line too much - it’s positively begging to be turned into a big Hollywood movie.