Coyne Airways is a proud sponsor of the Pohnpei national soccer team, based on the Micronesian island of Pohnpei in the Pacific Ocean. A strange choice it may seem for a UK based cargo airline that flies nowhere near to Pohnpei, but theirs is a true underdog story that many have taken to their hearts…
Having never won a competitive match and calling themselves ‘the biggest underdogs in world football’, the Pohnpei team came to the attention of the international media, and Coyne Airways, after being tagged ‘the world’s worst football team’ following a 16-1 defeat to Guam.
The team also caught the attention of two British nationals, Matthew Conrad and Paul Watson, who eventually took on coaching the team which largely consists of part-timers from the local construction industry. Matthew and Paul’s target was simple: to bring Pohnpei to winning ways and to fight against the odds for Pohnpei to be taken seriously by the football authorities.
To do this they needed to be playing games, a costly logistical challenge given the state’s geographic location. The nearest suitable opposition is in Guam, an expensive three hour flight away that operates twice weekly. This is where Coyne Airways stepped in to provide much-needed financial support to enable the team to embark on a tour of Guam and take the first steps towards recognition by FIFA.
Coyne Airways’ interest in the Pohnpei story is about more than just football though. The team are inspiring a nation to confront and deal with terrible health issues which are prevalent on the island. Currently 90% of Pohnpei citizens are obese due to poor diet and 30% suffer from diabetes. The team and coaches are an example of the benefits of exercise and good diet.
The tour of Guam in October 2010 was a resounding success, and thanks to Coyne Airways, the media will have to find another football team to dub “the world’s worst” after Phonpei won their first ever match against Crushers FC (an unfortunate name as they were crushed by Pohnpei 7-1!)
Since the tour Conrad and Watson have returned to the UK and local coaches are now working to move the team forward with continued support from Coyne Airways.
Paul Watson has written a critically acclaimed book “Up Pohnpei” and Matthew Conrad is working on a feature length documentary about their time on the island.
The video below provides a sneak preview of the documentary and briefly tells the story of how Pohnpei were developed from the “world’s worst football team” to “the biggest underdogs in world football”…