Monday, 11 October 2010

Pohnpei record first win

The national XI from the tiny Micronesian island of Pohnpei has won their competitive game after English coaches Paul Watson and Matthew Conrad led them to a commanding victory over club side Crushers on October 3 during a tour of Guam.

The world's youngest international manager Watson and assistant Conrad, both 26, took charge of Pohnpei in July 2009 and after 15 months of hard work, a young Pohnpeian squad travelled to Guam on tour to play their first competitive matches in over a decade thanks to a sponsorship deal with London-based cargo airline Coyne Airways.

In the first match of their four-game tour, Pohnpei lost 3-2 to club side Rovers 3-2 but they bounced back to thrash Crushers 7-1 at the Guam Football Association Complex in Dededo in front of a large crowd of Pohnpeian expats, who invaded the pitch at the final whistle to celebrate with the team.

Teenage strikers Ryan Johnson and Matthew Carlot scored two apeice, while gifted midfielder Nick Santiago, speedy wing-back Mike Selikar and giant defender Tom Mawi also hit the net for a team that has never received a penny of funding from football's governing body FIFA.

"It's just amazing how hard these lads have worked," said Watson, whose squad had an average age of just 22. "We have put them through 5.00 AM sessions before work as well as a tough gym routine, not to mention the hours spent on our waterlogged pitch at PICS Field."

On an island with an obesity rate of nearly 90%, Watson instigated strength and conditioning and nutritional programmes for his squad that was picked after last autumn's inaugural Pohnpei Premier League - a five-team league competition won by the local Island Pit-Bulls.

Pohnpei were beaten 2-0 by the Carpet Masters the day after their historic win and lost their final tour game 3-0 to a Guam side mainly featuring U-18 players but with five players above this age limit and three full internationals.

The hope is now that Pohnpei's success with aid the Federated States of Micronesia - Pohnpei and the neighbouring islands of Chuuk, Yap and Kosrae - in their bid to join the East Asian Football Federation, providing huge development grants and creating a long-term future for the game in the region.

Team captain Dilshan Senarathgoda is now set to take over the reins in Pohnpei while Watson plans to look for a football role in the UK or Europe and Conrad plans to make a documentary about the team's epic journey.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Strain at new regional federation

A version of this story appeared in a recent edition of Soccer Business World

Tensions between the six national football associations in the Indian Ocean that have clubbed together to form a new international association are delaying plans for a regional tournament.

The federation comprises Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion and the Seychelles and a champion’s league featuring the top club sides from each territory should be staged before the end of 2010.

A tournament featuring the national sides from all six countries is also being planned. This will be staged regionally with the Comoros, Madagascar and Mayotte in Pool A and Mauritius, Reunion and the Seychelles in Pool B.

Although the club competition is highly likely to be staged this year, getting the regional version started will prove harder due to tensions between the six associations, which have very different political status. “Madagascar and Comoros are in FIFA and want all the power,” said the Mayotte manager Frederic Suflaj.

The Fédération Comorienne de Football representing the Comoros was accepted into FIFA five years ago, while the Fédération Malagasy de Football representing Madagascar has been a member of the world body since 1964 – the same year that Mauritius also joined FIFA.

The Seychelles Football Federation was welcomed into FIFA in 1986. All four are independent states, unlike Reunion and Mayotte, which cannot join the world body due to their political status.

Reunion is a French department, while Mayotte is a French territory. Reunion is an associate member of the Confederation of African Football and can enter clubs in CAF competitions but not a national selection in the World Cup qualifiers.

Like Reunion, Mayotte is affiliated to the Fédération Française de Football but only a French territory. Teams of local players from both islands were recently in Paris at the moment for Le Coupe de l’Outre Mer – otherwise known as the Overseas Cup – (pictured) which is an eight team, bi-annual tournament staged by the FFF for its overseas departments or territories.

Reunion, winners of the inaugaral tournament in 2008, reached the final again only to lose to Martinque on penalties, while Mayotte finished fourth behind Guadeloupe.