I, Matt Conrad, and my mate Paul after a few beers had the crazy idea to ditch the drudgery of life and pursue our dream of playing international soccer. One problem: Who would take us? Neither of us were what you would call "talented."

A few more beers and some Googling later we found the island of Pohnpei, a tiny speck in the Pacific Ocean. Pohnpei had never won a game and were called "the worst team in the world." Perfect! - we thought. Let's grab a camera, pop over to the other side of the world, wow the locals with some kick-ups, play a game, win and become local legends forever!

Not exactly.

After a 48 hour flight we touched down on an island unlike anything we had ever seen. It was beautiful, very weird and everyone was staring at us. We bee-lined to team practice anxious to meet our new team-mates. But lo and behold - there was no team at all!

From this moment our mission became clear: Help Pohnpei create something pure and noble to call their own - a team capable of competing and winning their first game. Away from the over-commercialized trappings and glitz of the modern game, we had the chance to do something truly grass roots. Our mission became an obsession.

But, building a team in the middle of nowhere in the stifling heat and driving rain with no funding is no easy feat. Especially on a waterlogged field inhabited by hundreds of toads and dogs. Recruiting players and bridging the enormous cultural gap to instill a professional discipline needed to compete at international level wasn't any easier. Our star player was run over and almost killed by a drunk driver, our funding repeatedly fell through, I got 3rd degree sun burns, Paul got boils - yes boils, ...and we didn't have a working toilet. Nevertheless, inspired by our players, many of whom walked miles to and from training in the pummeling rain, we flew them off the island (in many cases for their first time) to face island rivals and Pacific soccer powerhouses, Guam in Pohnpei's first competitive game in decades.

We won.

tl:dr With no money and experience I flew to a small Pacific Island and coached their soccer team to their first international victory.

Verification: https://twitter.com/#%21/thesoccermen/status/171677936754229249

Website: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2028948731/the-soccermen

EDIT: Media links BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/8205348.stm LA TIMES: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/sep/04/sports/sp-random4 The Sun: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2588433/Briton-appointed-coach-of-the-worlds-worst-football-team.html

EDIT: FRONT PAGE! Holy Soccer Balls. Thanks guys.

Comments: 1078 • Responses: 81  • Date: 

[deleted]721 karma

[deleted]

MrMattConrad1056 karma

I want them to cast against type and go with Samuel L Jackson.

Cozmo231001 karma

I'm tired of these motha-fucking goals scored on our motha-fucking keeper.

frederichenry553 karma

Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking frogs on this motherfucking pitch!

MrMattConrad351 karma

HAHA - if you write the script. I will make that movie.

Freakin_Jedi121 karma

And I am sure Disney will buy the rights to it. Yay money!

MrMattConrad67 karma

Here's hoping!

MrMattConrad118 karma

You can have a say in that yourself. Here's a link to the trailer and the movie fundraiser! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2028948731/the-soccermen

MrMattConrad48 karma

It can be made with your help! Filming while coaching certainly wasn't easy!

frederichenry300 karma

Say 'soccer' again. Say 'soccer' again, I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker, say soccer one more Goddamn time!

MrMattConrad99 karma

BEST COMMENT SO FAR. I am tweeting that.

MrMattConrad66 karma

My_Face_Is295 karma

That is honestly one of the coolest, most amazing stories I've ever heard. Now I'm tempted to go somewhere and do something with my life!

MrMattConrad155 karma

By all means, get inspired! Here is the trailer to really AMP. YOU. UP http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2028948731/the-soccermen

[deleted]159 karma

Please take this in the nicest way possible:

You are an idiot if you can't spin this into the most successful Brad Pitt movie of all time.

MrMattConrad85 karma

I took it in the nicest way possible and was not offended. Success all round.

My_Face_Is25 karma

already watched it, really cool! I'm currently a broke student, but if i happen to get a job, I'll probably throw $5 to be a part of it

MrMattConrad31 karma

I've been there! Nice one. Well spread the word to all the broke students you can!

[deleted]170 karma

[deleted]

MrMattConrad95 karma

HAHA - Wrigley Field will always have a special place in my heart - it's in the Blue Brothers movie!

wishthiswas4chan158 karma

I am also a novice soccer coach. I, however, led what was in all likelyhood a normal and capable bunch of kids to be one of the worst teams ever. Where did I go wrong?

edit: For reference they were 1st graders.

MrMattConrad113 karma

Haha, maybe offer Twizzlers for goal bonuses!

Innosin22 karma

Was this your secret?

MrMattConrad27 karma

No. Sakau was.

[deleted]149 karma

This is absolutely fantastic.

Any chance you could send a passionate email to a small club called The Arsenal? We need some inspirational coaches right now. :(

MrMattConrad144 karma

As a massive Spurs fan, you probably don't want that. I reckon you guys will turn it around though.

rubberturtle136 karma

That's fine. Arsene is a Spurs fan too.

MrMattConrad26 karma

Apparently! We'll see in few days!

Bryndyn31 karma

I laughed, then upvoted you. Then my internal gunner felt dirty.

MrMattConrad31 karma

Haha, let's just both focus our energy on enjoying AVB lose the plot.

RommelAOE146 karma

Your real name is Gordon Bombay isn't it?

MrMattConrad77 karma

Very flattered by the reference.

EastCoastPA42 karma

Ah, so you're doing this because of a DUI?

MrMattConrad133 karma

Haha, don't drink and drive, kids. That's for adults. Kidding.

dark-koopa94 karma

[deleted]

MrMattConrad334 karma

Also, never underestimate the power of just showing up!

HereIsWhere159 karma

My dad would love you. He moved my family to the Virgin Islands in 1995 just after a massive hurricane went though. He didn't have a job so he walked into the local radio station Monday morning at 8am and asked what he could do to help, the owner replied he didn't need help. So my dad showed up again on Tuesday at 8am and asked if he could help, he got the same reply, no thanks. So he decides to go in on Wednesday at 8am again, and this time the owner says "Welp, you've been here everyday at 8am sharp and sober, I guess I'll have to find you an office." He's been working there ever since.

Edit: Since this comment has gotten some attention, I'll shamelessly plug my dad's autobiography: Life Lessons: from Louie Motherball, Margaret Mead and the Good News Guy; Near Mrs and Direct Hits of an eccentric thousand-aire. It's not really meant to be of value to anyone outside immediate family, more a record of his life and some silly stories he remembers about family, but I guess someone might find some value in it someday. The story in my comment is written out in it's entirety on page 134.

MrMattConrad36 karma

lolol - THAT MADE MY DAY!

slighted36 karma

this + i just saw your team kitted out in spurs shirts..

you utter fucking legend

i'm res tagging you, 'legend'.

you fucking legend.

MrMattConrad30 karma

Much appreciated. COYS.

MrMattConrad117 karma

We sent an email and said we were coming over and interested in helping out. I love the internet. But when we got there we showed we were really committed and the job was there if we wanted it. The whole story is in the documentary: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2028948731/the-soccermen

MrMattConrad83 karma

Never underestimate the power of sending a passionate email!

SickLaughter84 karma

Awesome story!

Can you tell us about the game against Guam?

How is the team doing now?

MrMattConrad235 karma

The game against Guam was NERVE RACKING. Nothing could prepare you for the nerves. Every time a player of mine was fouled I screamed astonishing abuse at the ref. I was a terrible example of fair play.

The team is growing and fingers crossed, we will get FIFA funding in 3 years. The sport has grown rapidly in the region thanks to the former captain who took over when we left. Diabetes and obesity are problems on the island so we are a great initiative for kids to stay healthy.

Tredid104 karma

Wait, you guys left?

MrMattConrad226 karma

Yes, we had to hand over the reigns. The team has to have local people running it long term and that's what's happening. Hopefully we were a lasting catalyst!

Shawnyall79 karma

At the end of the movie, it will be you two handing over literal reins over to a local coach to take over the team, then walk into the sunset and high five.

Then freeze frame.

Then music.

Then fade out.

Then credits.

I can see it now...

MrMattConrad38 karma

Thanks to that description - so can i.

Shawnyall24 karma

Make it happen, Matt... Make it happen.

MrMattConrad25 karma

I'll do my best. :-)

uzsbadgrmmronpurpose73 karma

At a glance I read this as "I am a novice sorcerer"

MrMattConrad412 karma

That would be incorrect as I am an expert Sorcerer.

FuckThe62 karma

When I first joined a team, it consisted of only of close friends. We lost every match we played for months. This was when we were 14 years old. Now, we're still together, but we're a lot better. We're competitors in our Sunday league division and we're currently in third place. It takes passion and love for the game in order to keep playing even though you keep on losing.

Sorry, but here's the question: How did the team celebrate after their first victory?

MrMattConrad92 karma

HHAHA great story! Love that! Our Celebrations? Gatorade fight, the biggest BBQ in South Pacific history and lots of tears.

FuckThe66 karma

By the way, you should try posting this to r/soccer. Maybe you can receive more donations for the documentary.

MrMattConrad61 karma

Awesome advice. Just done it.

Dambem52 karma

What made you think you could turn the losing team around?

MrMattConrad95 karma

We were all the way around the world. If we couldn't turn it around - it was a long way to go to fail!

Dambem42 karma

So, why did you take the risk?

MrMattConrad76 karma

I only asked myself that question the night before the big game. And I started crying. Footage of me crying like a big girl's blouse will be in the documentary: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2028948731/the-soccermen

Dambem32 karma

Wow, so you never actually thought about it before taking a losing team and trying to revive them, knowing that if you failed then it would be a long way to go down?

MrMattConrad72 karma

It was a dream to do something like that. I'm a massive football fan and the appeal of trying was more alluring that the risk of failure.

Dambem40 karma

Ahh, you wanted to achieve your goal no matter what it took, i salute you for that

MrMattConrad38 karma

Thanks man! Also, we really wanted the players to experience something. They inspired us to persevere.

thespecial149 karma

Ye are fucking legends. Do ye consider yourselves skilled at football, like have any trials or anything?

MrMattConrad300 karma

Paul is actually in shape and played semi-pro. I scored a hatrick in the garden against my niece recently.

Rencoret23 karma

Is your niece pro or...?

MrMattConrad88 karma

Hahaha - quality. She is a pro at taking massive dumps. Adorable little thing really.

NeiLerr39 karma

were you on soccer am?

MrMattConrad49 karma

Yes. My partner in crime, Paul Watson, was on Soccer AM. http://www.socceram.com/story/0,21644,13871_7506247,00.html

SplinkJK7 karma

I really and truly love what you have done. Donations inbound.

MrMattConrad9 karma

Love that enthusiasm. Thanks in advance.

frederichenry38 karma

How were you received initially by the players and the locals?

MrMattConrad70 karma

Staring. Lots of staring. Mainly because I was sweating so heavily. I made some great friends on the island, it was tough at first but by the end we were very close.

MrMattConrad58 karma

Well....much closer.

LatakiaBlend38 karma

How much tactical instruction did the team need when you got there? Did you have to go over positions, roles, etc. or were they already familiar with that?

MrMattConrad58 karma

Only a few players had the proper tactical experience. Most were just great athletes who wanted to learn. It was a blank slate in some cases and the learning curve was steep! It was funny to see players gravitating to unfashionable position. Gratifying for a coach!

LatakiaBlend47 karma

I can imagine. You've done in real life what the rest of us only do in various installments of the Football Manager games. Cheers mate, you've given us a hell of an inspiring story.

MrMattConrad62 karma

I blush. Football Manager definitely inspired me. After one marathon session of playing, a window popped up on the game and told me go have a shower and change my clothes. Seriously!

LatakiaBlend25 karma

If this means having to teach the offside rules, though, you have my sympathies. I referee little guys, like 6, 7, 8 years old, and trying to explain to them why they're offsides in a nice, gentle way is like banging your head up against a brick wall.

MrMattConrad26 karma

Sound like you like what you do despite the headbanging! I have massive admiration for youth coaches!

josephgordonreddit37 karma

This sounds like Cool Runnings, except for football. Do you see yourself as John Candy? Also, did you guys have a song, like "Pohnpei has a football team" or something?

MrMattConrad22 karma

I ate so much fish and rice that I ended up looking like John Candy. We didn't have a song. I tried to play Prodigy Firestarter in the gym but the boys always changed it to Sean Kingston: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkyhvCdJ_vM

frederichenry16 karma

Pohnpei has a football team Doo dah doo dah Guam's mother's we did ream Doo dah doo dah day

MrMattConrad11 karma

Haha - well - they Guam people were really kind to us so I can't technically endorse that one. But if it hits the terraces - so be it!

aliekber33 karma

Did you get paid for the job? If yes, how much per month?

MrMattConrad68 karma

No we were never paid. It was totally voluntary. Paul had a few flights subsidized and some of our accommodation was pro-rated but no - this was a passion project. Hence why we're both broke!

frederichenry23 karma

You're kidding me!

MrMattConrad65 karma

Nope. That's why we're trying to raise money for the documentary. We haven't got a penny left! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2028948731/the-soccermen

Hehyeahno27 karma

So what was the final score against Guam?

edit: says here you guys lost 0-3?

http://www.coyneair.com/pages/pohnpei-soccer-news/39/

MrMattConrad27 karma

We lost against the Guam national side. We beat local Premier League Crushers 7-1. That was Pohnpei's first ever competitive victory. They even had some Guam nationals in their lun-up so that was especially sweet.

nitpickr27 karma

Recruiting players and bridging the enormous cultural gap to instill a professional discipline needed to compete at international level wasn't any easier.

I'd love to hear more about how you got the professional discipline instilled into them. I don't assume that they were professional footballers, so how often was training?

MrMattConrad50 karma

We trained every day - especially in the build up to the tournament in Guam. 5 am gym sessions and then afternoon training sessions. The trick to getting people to play like professionals is to treat them like professionals. THAT really freaked them out and they felt like they had to rise to the occasion! Whole story is in the documentary: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2028948731/the-soccermen

heyitsconnor26 karma

Need a water boy? I'm unemployed and drinking is my specialty.

MrMattConrad35 karma

You are exactly as qualified as I was when I took the job!

SickLaughter21 karma

Where are you from?

I just moved from a first world country to a third world country myself...

Assuming you are from a first world country, what did you find were the major differences? What shocked you about Pohnpei?

MrMattConrad32 karma

Great question. Communication was obviously a big deal as their English wasn't as fluent as we had imagined. The major shock was the speed of things. Imposing a western sense of urgency is a challenge. The cumulative effect of the heat and the humidity on your psyche was also a big shock! I was sweating like a snowman in a microwave!

MrMattConrad28 karma

Oh, BTW, i am from London. Come on you Spurs!

Killbot30007 karma

Come on you Spurs! I noticed a Spurs jersey on one of the locals in the video; was it originally yours?

MrMattConrad26 karma

Yes, I am a massive Spurs fan. I made sure we brought over a bunch of Spurs kits on our first trip to indoctrinate them nice and early. Although we had to PAY for them! Yeovil and Norwich gave them for free!!

Killbot300029 karma

So with your credentials turning around the world's worst team, are you being considered for the England job?

MrMattConrad46 karma

I am - yes. My tactic of beating Guam at all costs really impressed them.

frederichenry49 karma

USMC had a similar mindset in 1944.

MrMattConrad22 karma

HAHAHA - heck yes they did.

Minerva8921 karma

How the hell do you get 3rd degree sunburns?!

MrMattConrad44 karma

Snorkeling.

Minerva897 karma

Elaborate? Still impossible in my mind.

MrMattConrad12 karma

Hopefully, it means you'll never try it!

Minerva8912 karma

Well, I teach people about burns and I never thought it possible for someone to get 3rd degree sunburns. Unless you're unconscious, how is it possible to not protect yourself by the time you get 2nd degree? How do you not realize that "holy shit, it burns" feeling by 2nd degree to let it progress to 3rd degree, well below the dermis?

MrMattConrad16 karma

Hindsight is 20:20, my friend!

landragoran8 karma

did a doctor actually tell you it was a 3rd degree burn? because 3rd degree is a lot worse than most people think. 3rd degree sunburns are nearly impossible.

definition and description of a 3rd degree burn

MrMattConrad8 karma

Of course not. It was self-diagnosed.

kieranbeech20 karma

You know I'm a fan and supporter of the project, are you planning on doing more football based docuementary type films in the future?

MrMattConrad16 karma

Kieran! Our top supporter! You should check out the amazing posters this guy did for us on http://www.thesoccermen.com/gallery Yes, Kieran, this is the first project of hopefully many. Thanks for your enduring support!

fizzl20 karma

How epic was your training montage? What was the background song to said montage?

Who was the antagonist who saw that he was wrong all the way, and then started the slow clap that will escalate into thunderous applause for the underdog?

MrMattConrad28 karma

Here is the first video we made about the project: this should answer the first question. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqr6zJK5bWE&context=C30c32e5ADOEgsToPDskLtZfCDuC5CfRxfddUMkrX-

The antagonist was probably the sports minister who was a bit of a tool. Never helped us at all. The Olympic Committee were amazing though.

flick_ch19 karma

Awesome! Though, isn't Pohnpei part of the Federated States of Micronesia? Just a little confused as to how Pohnpei's team is a national team.

MrMattConrad28 karma

Pohnpei is part of the FSM, yes but when we were playing Guam there were no team in the other states. We proudly represented the country as a whole. Now that football has grown on the other islands, it will be a more diverse group when the FSM team plays. You have to start somewhere.

str8wavedave19 karma

Hey, that sounds amazing. I have two questions. Are you still coaching there? What system did you play?

MrMattConrad35 karma

We are no longer coaching the team. I may return this summer for a guest appearance at the Micronesian games but that is TBD! We played standard 442. We encouraged the wing backs to overlap and played a deep line.

best3outof515 karma

Congrats on your win! Did the players have full time jobs as well? What was the age-range of the team?

This is sort of a reverse Jay DeMerit story. He did a lot of fundraising to release his movie as well.

Thomas Rongen from American Samoa beat Tonga for the first time in nearly 20 years. Y'all should talk!

Btw, you should tweet Grant Wahl (US soccer primo-journalist) about this. And Ives Galarcep.

MrMattConrad12 karma

Great idea. Thanks. I know the DeMerit guys but I will get in touch with those soccer journos. If you could Tweet them as well recommending us that would be great! @thesoccermen is our handle.

InfernoZeus14 karma

I saw Paul on Soccer AM the other day, and looked up your story. Really inspiring!

How many hours of Football Manager experience did you put on your CV when you applied?! ;)

MrMattConrad22 karma

I had a problem at university with Football Manager. I needed an intervention.

InfernoZeus5 karma

I'm in that exact situation right now!

MrMattConrad14 karma

Send the disk home to your family. They care for you and want what's best.

NukeWild13 karma

Which managers did you take inspiration from? Who gave the halftime team talks? or was it a good-cop/bad-cop delivery?

MrMattConrad17 karma

I love coaching. I doubt anyone would hire me in a paid position though! I think Paul has had his fill. You can Tweet him to know for sure: @paul_c_watson

Harry Redknapp has got to be someone to look up to. He trusts his players and is a great motivator. It may sound silly but I also look up to boxing trainers like Freddie Roach and Angelo Dundee.

MrMattConrad14 karma

Half time talks were a good cop/good cop routine. We normally felt the same way. If we were both pleased or both pissed off it had a better effect than being discordant!

SeriousBlack12 karma

So what are you going to do now? Keep coaching them?

MrMattConrad14 karma

No, we handed over the reigns to the locals. Now I am focused on raising the money to finish the documentary: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2028948731/the-soccermen

sunjaegoo10 karma

Have you seen the Korean movie Barefoot Dream? It's quite similar to your story.

MrMattConrad7 karma

I'm checking it out now.

multioptipupiloptomy9 karma

Is there anything beer can't do?!

MrMattConrad12 karma

Not sure. I'll keep looking though.

pobclick8 karma

What is your England starting XI?

MrMattConrad14 karma

I make no apologies for the Spurs bias. Get used to it if Harry takes over!

Hart, Ledley King, Michael Dawson, Ashley Cole, Micah Richards, Gerrard, Parker, Aaron Lennon, Rooney, Sturridge, Defoe !!!

Cozmo238 karma

Were the frogs and boils related?

MrMattConrad7 karma

HAHA. I never got boils but I got 3rd degree sun burns and lost all the skin on my back. Here's the proof - http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=235379006555363&set=a.225415810885016.51887.219995434760387&type=1&theater

Sorry - it's a bit gross

RaisinToGrapeProcess6 karma

Is there a Federated States of Micronesia team, or does each of the states get their own international team?

MrMattConrad6 karma

At first PNI was the de facto FSM team because there was no soccer on the other islands. But, this project has helped change that. Yap and Chuuk are really improving! Yap especially. Paul Lane is doing a great job.

throwmeaway766 karma

Do you plan on continuing a career in soccer or filmmaking?

MrMattConrad12 karma

I'm working on a way to combine the two!

pobclick11 karma

Forest are in dire need of a new gaffer! Tempted?

MrMattConrad13 karma

yeah, you guys are struggling right now. Shame - you're a huge club.

Kaffeerappel6 karma

was it an official FIFA match?

MrMattConrad14 karma

We are not yet in FIFA so it was not an official match, it was a friendly. Hopefully soon though!

Alaiksandr5 karma

What is the greatest asset of the players you worked with?

MrMattConrad9 karma

They are tough. A tough bunch of guys. Boils, sprains, cuts, bruises - they hardly ever complained.

roddersjhwatson5 karma

48 hour flight?! shit, how'd that break down?

( groovy story btw, and good luck with the documentary )

MrMattConrad13 karma

London > Dubai > Manilla > Guam > Chuuk > Pohnpei

Phew exhausting.

nastypoker5 karma

Listened to you on Radio 2 the other day. Interesting story.

MrMattConrad3 karma

Thanks! Love Radio 2. Spread the word on facebook about the documentary if you're interested in participating more: http://www.thesoccermen.com/