The story so far...

In December 2007, football journalist Paul Watson and filmmaker Matthew Conrad started to research the most remote footballing nations hoping to make a documentary on a land free from the increasingly materialistic world of the Premier League, a land where the love of the game still ruled.
Looking past the FIFA rankings to the list of non-federated teams, they found Pohnpei - the only side never to have won an international match.
Upon approaching the Pohnpei Soccer Association, Paul and Matt discovered that the former figurehead Charles Musana had just moved to London.
Mr Musana informed them that there was no coach in place and that the Pohnpei team had become more or less inactive.
Paul and Matt decided to give up everything to travel the length of the globe and take on the challenge.
20 months later, the football-crazed duo arrived on Pohnpei to take over the reigns. They had become the Soccermen.

Monday, 28 September 2009


The flight to the Philippines was shite. Charles somehow managed to get selected from the 800 people on the flight to get upgraded. From the moment we touched down in Manila it became apparent that Swine Flu was a major concern. In fear of the disease Manila airport officials herded passengers into a confined space and kept us waiting, immersed in each other's breath, for as long as they could. It was muggy, really really muggy and the rain was hammering down on the taxi roof. 2 hours of traffic later and we settled into the hotel. That night Paul, Charles and I had a few light ales, played a couple of friendly hands of wist and went to bed. Anything else you heard is vicious and unsubstantiated slander.

There was some amusement surrounding the Filipino interpretation of an Irish breakfast. I know we drew a comparison to Canadian Doubles and a Mexican Shower but i can't remember the specifics. Paul and I spent the rest of the day in a cafe nursing a single cup of coffee since all my cards had been blocked. I didn't even have enough to pay the bill and offered to do the washing up. It's amazing what happens when seemingly respectable tourists can't pay for 2 coffees. The staff just pissed themselves. I'll remember that.

Off to the airport and off to Guam. That was a shit house of a flight. The traffic back to the airport was even worse than before. The cab driver subjected us to Beyoncé's new album. We discovered that her songs were really wordy, clunky melody-less dirges.
At the airport Paul reacted extremely to a cup of coffee and was bouncing off the walls like a kinder surprise toy and got stuck in a vicious vortex of saying the word "Guam" which periodically sucked in everyone in his immediate vicinity. In a state of fitful panic we ate 12 cheese rolls and discussed which country name sounded most like a fruit whilst Charles ate a hamburger. On the plus side this was the first time that when we said "Pohnpei" to an airline official they didn't ask us to repeat ourselves.

We arrived in Guam and I promptly destroyed both Paul and Charles in the race through immigration. As we waited with surreal excitement for the departure of our plane to Pohnpei we contemplated the madness of our journey so far and met our first Pohnpeins who Charles "happened" to know. We boarded our final plane before Kolonia, a cauldron of emotion and slightly nauseous. There was one more stop- Chuuk. Paul and I opted to disembark and nose about. An attempt to get a local to take a picture of us resulted in the camera being held upside down and back to front. Classic. Paul had a contre-temp with a rather entitled airport nazi and almost got barred from the plane. Next stop: Pohnpei.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

DAY ONE (First Leg)

Roughly two years prior to this day, Paul was working peacefully in my kitchen. I had sat down next to him with the soul purpose of distracting him from his adorable little Italian football articles. His resolve was strong but eventually and inevitably we got onto the topic of football in Micronesia. Now we were in the airport with a Ugandan man called Charles Musana (henceforth known as “The Moose”) with a single goal in sight: a merciless yet bloodless football coup in a Pacific archipelago.

The trip opened with a cushy 8 hour Emirates jaunt to Dubai. The cabin staff scarcely had time to bombard us with an avalanche of snacks when we discovered that we could play battleships against each other. After my comprehensive public execution of the self-proclaimed “inventor” of Battleships we embarked on a 7 hour Pong marathon. Sadly, the results of the results of this particular competition were not recorded.

Dubai airport is palatial and every single one of those 6 rapturous hours was a pleasure. Critically, we got to know The Moose a little better. On camera he was cautious and cagey. Unwilling to incriminate himself in any way, he started wielding the word "allegedly" like a pair of conversational nunchucks. He was unwilling blame anyone or anything for football's dissolution since he left Pohnpei but his determination for us to succeed was palpable.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Famous in Russia (probably)

Amazingly, our story has even made the Russian papers. Here it is in Metro Moscow in an article by Alexey Shunaev.

On looks alone it's pretty much our favourite press coverage, but if anyone knows what it says please let us know. Matt had a valiant crack at translating, but turns out it takes more than 15 minutes to learn Russian.

It's probably about the whole Pohnpei thing, I reckon.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Deep-rooted form issues resurface to waylay NF Board bid

From the very beginning of this project, it has been clear that at some point Pohnpei needs to join the Nouvelle-Federation (N-F) Board.

In the early stages of researching non-FIFA football we discovered this bizarre, yet magnificent Belgian organisation, which is run by Luc Misson (the man responsible for the Bosman Ruling) and helps teams that FIFA won't recognise.

Of the 20 or so teams under this umbrella, some are politically disputed territories, like Tibet, some are regions that have a strong sense of identity, such as Sardinia, some are states constrained by larger federations, like Pohnpei's Micronesian cousins Yap, and some are crazy anomalies created by enterprising nutjobs (Sealand).

Magically, these entities come together to compete in an alternative World Cup, known as the VIVA World Cup - a parallel universe where Lapland can play West Papua and Zanzibar can take on Wallonia.

The idea of signing Pohnpei up to the NF Board as a stepping stone to FIFA had been firmly embedded in our brains from the off and I had hardly returned home before I made email contact with everyone in the organisation, hoping to start the ball rolling.

However, what I didn't take into account was that there would be forms. In fact, an unwelcome orgy of paperwork was lying in wait.

Now, it's not so much that I don't like forms, after all nobody likes forms. It's more that I have some kind of form-related disorder. Whenever I'm faced with forms, I will inevitably go through the following stages:

1. Assured anticipation - I know I'm going to nail this and I want to enjoy every moment, so I'll wait to the best possible time to do them.
2. Crippling perfectionism - Given my initial confidence, before I write any word I need to know it is exactly right. To be safe I write nothing at all but gaze at the white space with a dopey Chris Martin-esque expression. Lots of other menial tasks become very urgent and can be got out of the way while I think.
3. Form Tourette's - The forms have been with me for far too long. They have in some way become more powerful than me. I'm convinced I can hear them chatting to each other in hushed whispers when my back is turned. Finally I unleash all my pent up angst on the stack of paper. Words spew fourth from every orifice in no particular order. Boxes are filled and overfilled. The form is to all intents and purposes ruined.

And that's why it took me six days to write a word on the forms that I believe represent the biggest opportunity in the history of Pohnpei football.

This evening Stage 3 kicked in. At the start of next week an earnest Belgian will be engulfed in a deluge of almost entirely superfluous correspondence. I just hope he still lets us in.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Breakfast TV: Questionable publicity, miserable ordeal

Breakfast TV is, at best, a way to ease the senses into the day and reconcile yourself with the fact that you are up too early. At 6.57am, the whole grim business plays out to a bleary-eyed audience of insomniacs, milkmen and people who are getting flights.

So, you could say that a Sunday morning interview with BBC Breakfast was a bit of a baptism of fire in the TV game. Sharing a 30cm-circumference green room with our fellow guests, who were without exception lovely people, we mentally prepared for the biggest chance to pitch for sponsors at a time when nobody rich or influential enough to sponsor us would be conscious.

The actual interview was fine. Not bad, not great, fine. The silky smooth Charles Musana saw us through the opening jitters, Matt ran a pacy second leg and I brought us home. It probably won't be featured in many 'TV Highlights of the Year' guides come December, but I was delighted to have avoided any of the beginner pitfalls - I was clothed, I didn't fall off my seat and I didn't wet myself.

Three hours later, we would stagger out of Broadcasting House with our seven minutes of fame already fading fast in the memory. From my first TV interview I took away several useful lessons - try not to sign up for anything before 11am, don't expect any glimmer of human emotion from early-morning newsreaders and, most importantly, don't put your BBC visitor pass in your pocket because the pin will stab you in excess of 1,000 times.

Saturday, 18 July 2009


Paul’s decision to arrive back in the UK from his trip to Italy 12 hours before the biggest voyage of his personal and professional life proved a masterstroke. After all, all he had to do was get his Hep A booster, help plan the entire project, be taught how to use a camera, get over a ruthless case of diarrhoea and pack.

Meanwhile I had cleverly decided to leave the testing out of the £11,000 professional camera package to the last few hours in England; giving us just enough time to figure out that most of it didn’t work.

Paul, myself, Lizzie (our press officer) and Henry (A horny drifter from Cheltenham) decided that the best course of action was a nice farewell Indian take away. We discussed are last minute hopes and anxieties for the project. 18,000 miles and 36 hours is not very far to go for a heart-warming success but it is frightfully far to go to go get a javelin through the head.

There had been some worries that we were going to exceed our baggage allowance for the trip. We had assembled a fearsome arsenal of equipment. A vicious and ruthless footballing dirty bomb chocked full of shirts, boots, shinnies, shorts, socks whistles and balls ready to explode all over Pohnpei contaminating them with a terminal case of football fever. But, in order to bring the weight of our bag down we unpacked every single item and removed all packaging and labeling. 3 hours and 11 grams later we gave up and went to bed.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Job done

Fairly inevitably, my final day as a football journalist was an anti-climax. After months of anticipation, 5.30pm came and that was that.

Working at home certainly took away any sense of occasion and I genuinely regretted not going through with my plan of drinking myself into oblivion while typing increasingly risqué news stories.

In the long term I had taken a huge step towards making the Pohnpei move a reality, in the short term I had just thrown in my job during the worst economic slump in living memory.

January 2008-May 2009

Once the vague idea had been formulated, it very rapidly became a definite plan. The only problem was that I had a job, a flat and an overdraft. Added to that I was in, at best, respectable physical condition and had no real idea how to coach a football team. In short, there was a lot of work to do before I could set off for Pohnpei.
So, I joined East Fulham, a decent amateur football club with regular training and an excellent coach. I doubled my gym visits and, most painfully, I started to watch what I ate and drank. Trips to the supermarket were miserable and agonisingly long, as for the first time in my life I read all the nutritional information labels.
Fairly unsurprisingly, the lifestyle of a serious athlete is quite different to that of a journalist. Working 15-hour shifts at home perched in front of my computer in a £700-per-month cell on Acton High Street, I struggled with the intensity of my new regime. I would run to the gym during shifts, do a session, run back and pray nobody had noticed my absence. It was a risky strategy and I'm sure the stress cost me years of my life.
I pretty much stopped drinking. I lost track of friends. I slept poorly and had regular nightmares that everything would fall through - what if someone else stole the idea and got there first? If I couldn't contact Charles Musana for a day I'd panic. Phone calls to Matt, who was in LA, had to be conducted at 8am while I was half-asleep and typing news stories for Football Italia with one hand. I turned up to football (four times a week) still exhausted from a 15k run the night before or a hurried afternoon assault on my biceps.
I was doing all this because of my love for football a tiny island I'd never been to, a speck in the Pacific Ocean, Pohnpei.
Posted by Paul Watson