Football

Former managers of 'The World's Worst Team' take on a new challenge

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Can two Englishmen take Mongolian football by the horns?  (©GettyImages)
Can two Englishmen take Mongolian football by the horns? (©GettyImages).

Haven't you always wanted to manage an international team, become a nation's hero and lead them to victory? Two British football fans, Paul Watson and Matt Conrad, wanted them same thing, and took it upon themselves to travel round the world to find a team that had never won a game.

They found Pohnpei, a small island in the pacific, part of the Federated States of Micronesia. Having met the vice-president of the Pohnpei Soccer Association in London and been offered the job, the duo took the post and booked a flight to the remote speck of land, with a population of just 34,000. The national football team's games had all ended in defeat, the most recent a humiliating 16-1 drubbing several years before.

Since then, the game had stagnated, funding stopped and obesity had taken hold on the island's best players. So these were just some of the problems Watson and Conrad faced, and they were not helped by the island's climate (said to be the world's third wettest) and an toad infested pitch.

Despite these hardships, they slowly gained the trust of the locals. and began to fashion the island's players into footballers. Several months of hard work on and off the pitch culminated in a tour of the neighbouring (1000 miles away) island of Guam.

Having secured sponsorship of £10,000, Watson and Conrad tested their young squad against two of Guam's league sides and the national team. In the process they recorded Pohnpei's first ever win, a 7-1 crushing of the Crushers, naturally.

The pair left the post of joint managers after the triumphant tour, having racked up hefty debts on plane tickets and living costs in their time in the voluntary role. Having written a book about their experiences, Up Pohnpei, they have seen their profile rise and have announced their next project, managing in Mongolia.

With one of the lowest population densities of in the world, (just under 3,000,000 people living in the world's 19th biggest country) it's fair to say there isn't a huge fan base for football. Over 40% of the country live in Ulaan Bataar (or Ulan Bator), the capital and most of the clubs in the Mongolian Premier League come from the city.

Having been spotted by Enki Batsumber, a director of the Premier League, in a magazine article about their time in the Pacific, Watson and Conrad were approached with a new project. Conrad says "The remit of this project is pretty basic. To create the best club in Mongolia." Batsumber thought these two young managers would be adaptable enough to integrate into Mongolia and bring experience of management in a foreign country.

This is the first professional management post that the duo have taken on. The size of the task in front of them is a daunting but exciting prospect, Watson said in an interview with football podcasters A Football Report Voice. He also mentioned that he would be on his own in the country until Conrad puts the finishing touches to The Soccermen, a film documenting their time in Pohnpei.

Watch this space for more updates on Watson and Conrad's adventures.

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