Football Fans Fly 8,000 Miles to Coach 'Worst Team in World'; UP POHNPEI LONDONERS WITH GAME PLAN TO PUT MICRONESIAN ISLAND ON FOOTBALL MAP

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew Beard Sports News Correspondent

TO SAY they have a mountain to climb is an understatement.

Two Londoners are flying 8,000 miles across the globe to create an international football team on the tiny Pacific island of Pohnpei.

Film student Matthew Conrad and football journalist Paul Watson are attempting to defy the odds by putting the island, with a population of 36,000, on the footballing map. Both aged 25, they are the youngest international coaches in the game's history.

Pohnpei, the largest of 600 islands in Micronesia situated 1,800 miles north of Papua New Guinea, may be admired for its rainforests but has no such renown in the football world.

The island team have habitually failed to show the fighting spirit suggested by their nickname, the Pitbulls, and have yet to register a win. In their last international five years ago they were beaten 16-0 by Guam.

The shame of being described by some as the worst team in the world was perhaps too great and the side disbanded soon after. Football has failed to take off on Pohnpei because the island is one of the wettest places on earth with average annual rainfall of 300 inches --10 times wetter than Manchester. The island's national sport of basketball is, crucially, played indoors.

Mr Conrad admitted that, with little coaching experience, he would never be a match for England boss Fabio Capello -- and said heroic failure was probably the best Pohnpei's players could hope for.

He added: "We started just looking out of curiosity for the most remote places to play football and then decided that we would like to take on a real non-entity.

"We emailed numerous federations and Pohnpei got in touch with us. …