Nottingham coach hoping to change fortunes of ‘worst football team in the world’

Video: Coach Chris puts Notts TV’s Jake Meskell through his paces.

A 46-0 defeat is enough to get any Premier League manager the sack, but for ‘the worst team in the world’ it is all about taking part.

Liam Hunt meets a Nottingham coach who is travelling to one of the wettest islands in the world, Pohnpei, to turn footballing minnows into world beaters. That’s the dream anyway.

Micronesia is home to the Pohnpei State Team. They have been branded the ‘world’s worst football team’ – suffering recording-breaking losses of 30, 38 and 46 nil. As recently as 2007 Pohnpei were the only international team in existence yet to win a game.

But even this hasn’t put Nottingham football coach Chris Smith off from travelling more than 8,000 miles to help build the country’s footballing future as Pohnpei’s new Football Technical Director.

The Pohnpei National State Football Team. (Picture: Up Pohnpei)

With young people in Micronesia struggling for motivation and entertainment, the state is suffering global highs of both obesity and suicide rates. More than 90 per cent of the population aged over 15 is overweight and the biggest cause of death among young people is suicide.

Chris believes he can play an important role in engaging young people in sport and help make a difference to their future.

“The role has been open-ended from the start; it has been we want a certain type of coaching expertise out there and see what we can do,” he said.

“From that I’ve kind of defined it a bit more, we want to get kids playing football but we also want to look after the current league system, we want to look after the national team and anything football-related that can help the whole country.

“To me football is a social sport, it’s you and your mates and it is that natural competitiveness whether your kids or adults that drives you.

“It doesn’t matter if you are doing football or whatever, it’s what we love to do, we love to compete – football is a competitive sport and just to me my coaching style, I think it works.”

Up Pohnpei?

  • The Federated States of Micronesia is a group of small islands in the Pacific Ocean.
  • It has a population of just over 100,000 people.
  • It is devided into 4 states with Pohnpei being the most populous and home to the capital Palikir.
  • Pohnpei Soccer Association is responsible for growing and governing the sport of football in Pohnpei.
  • The PSA oversees the Pohnpei Premier League consisting of 5 teams and runs the Pohnpei State team. pohnpei-flag

Back in 2007 two English football coaches, Paul Watson and Matt Conrad made the same journey to Micronesia with the aim of turning around Pohnpei’s fortune.

After months of training they were able to create the island’s first football league, pick a Pohnpei State squad and organise a tour to Guam – where they recorded their first-ever international victory.

Following their trip Paul released a book titled Up Pohnpei and Matt is working on a documentrary called The Soccermen – both recount the journey of football in Pohnpei.

With experience of coaching in Vietnam and India for Arsenal and PSG’s international football programmes, Chris was chosen to pick up where Paul and Matt left off.

Chris Smith will make the 8190 mile journey to Pohnpei.

He said: “I saw a little tweet about football opportunities in Micronesia – I’d worked abroad before and wanted to do it again so I got in contact.

“They got back to me, we had a few conversations had the same ideas and it snowballed from there.”

Chris is self-funding some of the project with a Go Fund Me page launched to help raise the rest.

He added: “I’ve actually been surprised about how little it takes to get in there and make a difference, overall you’re looking at for me going over there for three months it’s probably going to cost less than £2,000.

“If you’re looking at the difference that can make it’s actually huge – we are looking at getting football into all the schools there, we are looking at getting good training for the national team.

“Funding can be a problem but if we get a little it can go a long way.”

Looking to the future Pohnpei are hoping to be accepted into the Asian Football Confederation and FIFA, with their hopes set on the 2018 Micronesian Games.

“The future can be bright, that’s why my biggest interest is working with young players – a lot of people want to play football out there, this is giving them the means to play football.

“Right now, for the adult team we are pulling together 20-year-olds to 30-year-olds into a team but if they’re playing from seven or eight years old it makes a huge difference in ten or twenty years time.

“That is the hope, building for the future.”

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