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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The loss was actually to the Guam U-18 team, not the full national team. In this context, a 3-0 loss to one of the worst national teams in the world's junior team seems pretty bad. Also, it only lasted 70 minutes due to floodlight failure - it might have ended up 4-0 or 5-0. Good first steps for Pohnpei though - though they need to start playing as a united Micronesia team if they want to be recognised by FIFA.