Pohnpei Soccer Team Tour of Guam - October 2010
In October 2010 the Pohnpei national football team set out on a tour of neighbouring Guam, thanks to the sponsorship funds provided by Coyne Airways. The tour would culminate in a long awaited rematch with the Guam national team who had previously handed Pohnpei a humiliating 16-1 defeat. The team had never previously won a match but all of that was about to change.
This page is a first-hand account by coach Paul Watson of the tour which saw the Pohnpei team take on four games in five days in search of credibility and a first step on the long road to FIFA recognition.
Charles Welson, Andrew Falcam, Brian Taylor; Mike Selikar, Tom Mawi, Denson Fairfield, Roger Nakasone, Robert Paul; Nick Santiago, Dilshan Senarathgoda, Marvin Jack, Rodrigo Matamba; Ryan Johnson, Bob Paul, Matthew Carlot
|The Pohnpei Team in Guam|
Saturday, Oct. 2 – Pohnpei vs. Rovers FC. Result: 2-3
Sunday, Oct. 3 – Pohnpei vs. Crushers FC. Result: 7-1 *History is made - first Pohnpei win!*
Tuesday, Oct. 5 – Pohnpei vs. Carpet Masters. Result: 0-2
Wednesday, Oct. 6 – Pohnpei vs. Guam national team. Result: 0-3
1st October: Countdown to Matchday.
It’s getting serious down at the GFA dormitory as the tension builds before tomorrow’s inaugural game of Pohnpei Soccer’s tour of Guam.
Pohnpei went for an early morning jog then trained in the scorching 30 degree sunshine. Set piece practice culminated in right back, Mika Selikar, scoring a penalty blindfolded.
I went over the schedule. Our final training session would be at 6.30 pm and no one should eat before as training would be short but extremely intense. Unfortunately Roger Nakasone did not take this advice, sneaked in a cheeky burger beforehand, and threw up all over the training pitch after 3 minutes of sprints. This reporter does not see the spirited left back making the same mistake tomorrow.
The team then attended high tempo Guam division 2 play off game. When right winger, Marvin Jack aka “Diamond Geezer” was asked if the level of play impressed him the pacey wide man exclaimed: “One of their guys is almost as fat as Coach Conrad.” In a not totally unrelated story, Marvin may find himself running laps at 6 AM tomorrow.
The Guamese Pohnpeian community put on a massive feast for the boys’ last supper before tomorrow’s big game. COME ON, POHNPEI!
2nd October - Matchday 1: Pohnpei vs Rovers FC.
|Ready to face up to Rovers FC|
We lost our first game today 3-2 but I have no idea how. I'm sure I'm not the first manager to suggest this but we were robbed. Not robbed by a bad referee or by any act of foul play from any other party but in some way we were the victims of an inexplicable injustice.
Prior to kick-off myself and fellow coach Matthew Conrad looked cool and composed. We were in actual fact nervous wrecks. But as soon as the game got going it was clear that our lads had taken in everything we had been trying to get across. They were stroking the ball around with authority despite the temperature being a head-melting 40 degrees celsius.
Struggling to keep ourselves off the pitch, Conrad and I screamed, yelled, bellowed and pleaded as the sun turned us steadily redder. Our boys fought valiantly to try and rescue the game after being hit by a freak own goal, a harsh penalty and a well-taken goal. The scorers for us were little and large. Rodrigo Matamba, the shyest, politest teenager netted the first with a crisp strike. Gentle giant Tom Mawi got the second as a terrified defence failed to deal with nearly seven foot of pure muscle.
Sadly we could only get back to 3-2. But we will win tomorrow...
3rd October - Matchday 2: Pohnpei in Seventh Heaven After Demolishing Local Crushers
Pohnpei notched up their first ever competitive victory today as they cruised to a 7-1 win over Guam Division 2 side, Crushers.
After the bitter disappointment of Sunday’s narrow defeat to Guam Rovers, Pohnpei State flew out of the stalls in a relentless wave of attacks that saw them take an early lead through Matthew Carlot who buried Ryan Johnson’s through-ball from close range.
Ryan Johnson bagged one for himself with a neat finish and Nick Santiago added a 3rd before Carlot completed his brace before half time to put Pohnpei in a commanding position after 45 minutes.
It could have been more if captain Dilshan Senarathgoda had converted a marvellous solo run from the left wing. The mid-fielder skinned several Crushers defenders before shooting straight at a relieved Crushers goalkeeper.
Video Highlights: Pohnpei vs Guam Crushers
The 2nd half saw Pohnpei maintain their stranglehold on the game. Denson Fairfield and Rocky Henley repelled anything that came even remotely near the Pohnpei goal. The Micronesian outfit reshuffled after Rodrigo Matamba made way for the towering beef-cake Tom Mawi. Snarling right back Micah Selikar was pushed up onto the left wing and player’s blistering pace was a constant threat to the Crushers’ fading back line.
Marvin Jack who was playing despite a boil the size of a conker on his ankle, continued his fine run of form; his cross was brought down by Selikar who gleefully smashed home for his first of the tour. Goal keeper Charles Welson was then called into action as he flew across the goal to parry a rare Crushers long range effort.
Charles Bronson sound-alike Ryan Johnson added a well taken 6th before hulking behemoth, Tom Mawi, then put the game beyond doubt as he casually punted in the 7th from the edge of the area.
Crushers managed a late consolation but the Pohnpeian fans were in dreamland and scarcely seemed to notice. The final whistle saw a pitch invasion of the entire 24 supporter contingent as the team posed for photographs to commemorate a critical milestone in the history of Micronesian soccer.
Attention must ultimately turn to Tuesday’s fixture against the fearsome division 1, Carpet Masters FC. But, for tonight, Pohnpei can revel in a decisive and well-earned victory. Defender Fairfield artfully described his feelings of euphoria after the game: "f***ing great."
5th October - Matchday 3: Carpet Masters 2-0 Pohnpei
Football is a cruel mistress and Pohnpei State and learned this the hard way as they lost another game they dominated from start to finish.
Spirits were high in the Micronesian camp after Pohnpei’s 7-1 demolition of Crushers FC but in the pre-game warm up, goalkeeper Charles Welson sprained his wrist and was forced out of the starting line up.
|The Catpains of Pohnpei and Carpet Masters pre-match|
It was a sign of the awful luck that would plague the island boys for the next 90 minutes. Still, the incident handed a recall to Andrew Falcam. The veteran keeper who suffers from arthritis last practised 6 months ago and has been the Pohnpei team’s chaperone for the tour. With GK Brian Taylor still recovering from a vicious concussion it was the only option.
Pohnpei began the game well, controlling possession and stroking the ball around nicely. Winger, Marvin Jack, who had been an injury doubt before the game was causing problems down the right and talismanic midfielder, Dilshan Senarathgoda was seeing plenty of the ball. Roger Nakasone’s acrobatics had the crowd intermittently gasping in awe and singing his name.
Then, the sucker punch. A seemingly innocuous cross, the first from Masters, somehow evaded 3 Pohnpei defenders and fell perfectly for the Guamese’s number 9 to slot home from close range. The Carpet Masters celebrated wildly as Pohnpei looked at each other in disbelief.
Immediately after the restart, moustachioed ladies’ man Matthew Carlot got the better of his marker and wriggled through the sprawling defence only for his venomous shot to be blocked. The Pohnpei fans, out-numbering the locals by 5-1 blew adoringly on their vuvuzelas.
After half time, myself and coach Conrad tried to mix it up and made a change. Forward, Ryan Johnson, made way for striker Bob Paul as Pohnpei tried to capitalize on their overwhelming possession. Toothy right back, Micah Selikar, switched to left wing and the wide made instantly looked too much for his hapless and lumbering opposite number. After beating his man, Selikar fed Senarathgoda who was felled just outside the area but the free kick whistled just over the bar.
Minutes later, the referee had the Pohnpei bench in conniptions, Carlot had chipped the ball through the Masters defence who threw out a hand to block. The incident was judged to have been outside the area but the reply showed otherwise. The referee was the subject of further Pohnpeian outrage as he seemed unable to control the Guamese wall from blatant encroachment.
Ten minutes to go and Pohnpei piled forward in search of an equalizer as Masters put everyone behind the ball. Towering gargantuan, Tom Mawi, almost clubbed in a corner and Rocky Henley went agonizingly close with a chip from deep. Pohnpei eagerness to get forward, however, cost them dearly. In the closing moments, quick thinking from the home side’s Chuukese goalkeeper fed the Carpet Masters’ left winger. Pohnpei had over-committed up front and the final whistle went soon after a cool finish.
It was a bitter blow for the Pohnpeian side who now have to pick themselves up for their biggest test yet. The Guam national side.
6th October - Matchday 4: Lights go out on Brave Pohnpei - Guam 3-0 Pohnpei
The final game of the Guam tour ended in a 3-0 defeat after a heroic performance and an unexpected curtailment due to a floodlight failure at the GFA Facility.
Pohnpei were in high spirits after a series of superb performances in Guam, but there was some anxiety as they prepared to take on the nation that battered them 16-1 back in 1998.
Within minutes it became clear that this wouldn't be the same kind of one-sided contest that took place 12 years ago. The visitors played fast, flowing football and Guam looked visibly shaken by the speed of the first 10 minutes.
|After learning how to win, losing really hurts|
Sadly, a lapse in defensive concentration cost Pohnpei dear once more and they fell behind with just over 15 minutes played. Guam smelt blood and piled on the pressure, but the Pohnpei defence held firm until just before half-time when they were hit on the break.
As the second period started, the heavens opened. The Pohnpeians were at home in the torrential rain and the balance of the game shifted in their favour. A radical formation shuffle allowed the men in blue to troubled the Guam back line on the break.
Mike Selikar drove wide when he found himself through on goal and Nick Santiago was denied by the 'keeper. Dilshan Senarathgoda also found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but a bobble saw him fail to find the target.
Pohnpei 'keeper Brian Taylor made two magnificent saves in his first appearance on the tour but he could do nothing to stop Guam adding a third.
However, not to be discouraged Pohnpei kept fighting to the delight of the 100-strong Pohnpeian contingent cheering from the sidelines. As the rain reached biblical proportions, the openings kept coming for Pohnpei but they were unable to make the most of their chances.
With 70 minutes played and Pohnpei firmly on top, the floodlights went out. After 10 minutes of discussions, the game was abandoned but the 3-0 score-line stood.
Pohnpei's players ended their tour with yet another excellent performance and a score-line that highlights their vast improvement over the last year.