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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 4 March 2012
Let me start by saying I have no interest in football... but don't let that put you off this absolutely brilliant book. If nothing else, this book gives justification to all those late drunken nights in the pub where we all have our best ideas.

Up Pohnpai is a fascinating read both funny and touching, it is truly mind boggling what Paul and Matt manage to achieve and the story of the Pohnpai football team will hold you captivated as you journey from toad infested pitches to the bright lights of Guam's polished football field of dreams.

The author's style is funny and personal and you will quickly build up a strong empathy for both the Island of Pohnpai and its future footballing stars. Although outside of my normal reading I cannot recommend this book enough so pick up a copy, sit back and enjoy the ride.
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on 27 February 2012
When i read an article about this in FourFourTwo magazine i thought it was a brilliant and madcap idea,having blazed through this book my initial thought was spot on,a great read not only for football fans,but travellers,and anyone who does'nt know of the football loving toad community.As a disillusioned football fan it was superb to read the 2010 World Cup Final being compared to Guam v North Mariana Islands.Funny and sometimes moving.Loved it from cover to cover
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on 10 February 2015
“They’re so bad that even I could play for them”, is an all too frequent whine from armchair footballers when seeing the likes of Andorra or San Marino take on one of the powers of the European game; or even England. But is that actually true? Paul Watson and his friend Matt Conrad felt that way and wanted to find out if they really could.

But a bit of initial research led them to the conclusion that even the likes of Andorra were far too good for them; capable as they were of holding the might of Russia to a 1-0 score line. And even nations from the depths of the FIFA rankings like Montserrat had players from a far higher level than they could even have attained. But there were other “nations” beyond FIFA’s reach that were even worse in theory.

More googling brought Watson and Conrad to the island of Yap, one of the Federated States of Micronesia, who had lost heavily, 15-0, to Guam. But there was a team even worse than Yap. They had won one match in their history, against another Micronesian state, Pohnpei. This was the team for them.

Initial contact and a viewing of the Micronesian laws around citizenship meant that playing for a Pohnpei national team was quickly ruled out, but the prospect of coaching them became a real possibility. It soon became a passion and so a lot of planning, four flights and twenty five hours later, the intrepid duo arrived in Pohnpei. ‘Though neither of us would admit it, our current state of disillusionment with the scale, pomp and privilege of modern European football added an element of idealism to excitement. We were going to make a difference.’

Pohnpei may be a scenic island of waterfalls and lush greenery, but it was hot, humid and it rained. A lot. ‘How anyone could possibly train a football team in this climate, where a sunny day can and will turn to a tropical storm with ten minutes’ notice.’ But there is something about the underdog spirit that grips you and once you learn the stories of those involved it can make you yearn for their success, and this book delivers that in spades.

It tells the fascinating story of how Watson primarily, and at times with Conrad’s assistance developed a bunch of rag tag misfits into a football team. There are many tales of dealing with the cultural differences and political inertia that came with life on a remote Pacific island with barely any football heritage. Funding was non-existent for a sport that was low down the list of priorities, and a steady stream of difficulties faced the wannabe coaches, all of which make the story being told all the more intriguing.

Efforts to set up a league and to gain sponsorship for a tour to near neighbours Guam are a recurring theme, but it is the personal stories which make this such a vivid and heart warming story. Some of the players are difficult characters, some are very keen and talented players, some have fascinating back stories, but all are depicted in such a way that I was genuinely willing them on throughout. They all responded to their new coaches in different ways, but one particular team bonding trip brought about the desires effect: ‘I had spent weeks trying to win the players’ respect with my professionalism and made slow progress, but after one day of binge drinking I had won them over.’

I was craving one or two photos to add a bit of recognition to the players who had become so familiar in my mind’s eye, but there are none in the book though I have found a few online to add a bit of context. It’s a genuinely uplifting read, and reaffirms the feeling that sport and football can bring people together and be a force for good.

This book is a wonderful read about an epic story that hooked me to the extent that I read the final chapters in a hurry to discover the outcome of Pohnpei’s tour matches in Guam. I wanted them to win, I wanted them to taste victory, but regardless of the results, their story had gripped me. This book is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in football beyond the regular, high profile and in your face humdrum of the modern game.

This review is from my website
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on 25 February 2012
What an amazing story ... if it was fiction you'd put it aside because 'it's too farfetched and total nonsense'! But, in fact it's a TRUE story, related with humour and charm showing what CAN be achieved with tenacity, resourcefulness and ... did I mention ... HUMOUR!!!

Well done to these two enterprising young men, to their back up team, their support network and their families ...

Treat yourself to this book ... ENJOY!!!
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on 16 February 2012
I initially bought Up Pohnpei for the idea of how funny it would be to give into childhood fantasy's of wanting to play for or coach an International side, and also being a coach myself I wanted to get an insight of what other coaches do, think and feel at times.

The book initially started on that comedic tone as Matt and Paul, mainly Matt obsesses over the idea of playing football internationally, Paul starts to give into Matt and his own urges and desires to follow a childhood fantasy, and then the guys go from the sane to brave (possibly deemed insane by others,) by giving up a stable life to go and coach the tiny Micronesian Island of Pohnpei football.

After a first visit to the Island, Paul and Matt realise the task at hand is so much bigger than going over to Pohnpei and coaching a team, they have to set up a whole football infrastructure, to even achieve getting a National team in place. Things don't go Paul's way as Matt has to take a life changing career opportunity. So for the most part of the book the two man army become one, Paul has to do the leg work himself, he does have the help of a very enthusiastic football mad local Dislhan who becomes Paul's biggest asset during the battles he faces in Pohnpei itself. Paul also has bigger battles as he tries everything he can to get funding and aid from various football and sporting organisations and help from the local Micronesian states, but each time he tries he comes across more hurdles, a few of those hurdles are created by the very thing that should help him, FIFA.

Eventually Paul makes headway and with the return of his good friend Matt, they manage to get the Pohnpei national side to play in their first international fixtures under the pairs tutlage.

The book to me is a very heartfelt piece; the book becomes a very uplifting story of trials and tribulations and goes from being a story about Paul Watson and Matt Conrad to a story about the Pohnpei players and battles to gain them respect and love throughout their out Nation and in the eyes of the world football. Paul also drags you in, to not only believe in the good he's doing, but you also feel his frustration and his angst as he tries to overcome the obstacles in his way, it's a superbly written book, and one that can be enjoyed by all, not just the football fans among us.
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on 9 May 2012
Picked this up on kindle after seeing Paul on Soccer AM ages ago and finally got around to reading it. Wish I'd read it much earlier as it turned out to be a cracking book detailing his attempts to bring football to Pohnpei. An enjoyable book filled with some moments of real humour and you get a real sense of his desperation at times to try and make things work.

Would recommend to those even if you didn't have a great interest in football.
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on 19 September 2012
I left this in the book swap area in my hotel in Cuba. Loved the book, Loved the hotel; Loved Cuba. More importantly, I loved Havanna Club Rum, and wish I hadn't left the book now. It made me laugh out loud.
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on 16 June 2014
Read this on holiday and had to keep stopping and reading bits out to my husband because it was either so funny or really interesting facts. You end up wishing they could win and supporting the underdog. Wonderful dedication form the boys and they deserve all the credit and plaudits they get for what they did out there - well done.
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on 30 March 2012
This is the first review i have ever written for anything on Amazon, i have bought countless books and other things, but thhis was the first time i was compelled to write a review. This was partly spurred on by the sour review of "Been There" all i can say is "Been there done what?" Fairly obvious you did not read the book to the detail you claim to have done.

I am an avid fan of sports, football and rugby in particular, and i love to travel and read travel books. Who hasn't had a conversation like this with their friends and done nothing about it, i scared the silent tube dwellers when i burst out laughing at ranking Montserrat even too good, the beginning of last year myself and some friends i play 5-a-side with tried to work out how we could play for them after reading an article about the desperate search for players with Montserrat heritage. When i found out that one of the guys i employed to work with me this summer had grandparents still living there and was a semi pro footballer, so i spent far too much time trying to get him to sort his papers out so he could play..... whether it happens remains to be seen.


The book to me is a fantastic look at the impact of sport and something that all team sports transcend and thats to create a sense of belonging to a place, a sense of community and more. It seems that the dreams you guys had, had such a positive impact on the island. Something to be immensely proud of.

The book is a genuine page turner to me, did they win? Would Brian and Joseph be ok? Who would look after the sport when you left? would Dilshan be the hero? Would Robert and Bob ever behave?

I would give it 6 stars if i could. I loved it! If you have ever tried to get Torquay United to the Champions League Final on Football Manager or just like an underdog story this is the book for you!

For the first time since i moved to London i looked forward to getting on the tube so i could read the book. So Thanks! UP POHNPEI!
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on 8 December 2013
It was interesting to see what the situation is outside the world football football we normally see in the papers etc. and to see the bravery and dedication that some people have in a pursuit of their sport a change from reading about the usual prima donna's you sometimes associate with this sport I just wish the ending had gone on to tell us what paul went on to achieve but maybe thats another book in the offing.
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