Paul Watson (football manager)
Paul C. Watson (born 1984) is a British writer and football coach. Once a semi-professional footballer himself, he is best known for serving as coach of the Pohnpei State football team and Federated States of Micronesia national football team in 2009 and 2010, an experience about which he wrote the 2012 book Up Pohnpei. Since then he has moved to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to assist in the founding of a new team, Bayangol FC.
Early life and career
Watson was born in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. He grew up in Shirehampton and Henleaze, and is a Bristol City F.C. fan. His brother Mark Watson is a comedian. He studied Italian language at the University of Leeds. He played football semi-professionally for East Fulham F.C. He would go on to become a sports journalist on the Channel 4 programme Football Italia.
Coaching on Pohnpei
In 2007, Watson and his friend Matt Conrad began looking into the possibility of becoming international footballers by joining a poorly-performing foreign team. At the time, Watson was working on a documentary about the world's weakest football teams. They started their internet research by looking at the results of the team at the bottom of the FIFA rankings at the time, the Guam national football team, and then trying to find which non-FIFA teams Guam had beaten – most notably, the Yap football team with a score of 7–1 – before setting their sights on the sole team which Yap had ever beaten: Pohnpei State Football Team.
Unfortunately for Watson and Conrad, playing for a team in the Federated States of Micronesia would require them to first qualify for naturalisation under the country's strict nationality laws by marrying local women, learning a local language, and living in the country for five years, so they had to give up on that idea. However, the pair soon after decided that they could pursue a similar dream of becoming international football coaches instead, and got in touch with former Pohnpei coach Charles Musana, who had coincidentally just moved to London and initially thought the pair's query was part of a prank. Following two years of negotiations with Micronesian sports officials, Watson was eventually offered the coaching job, and took up his new post in August 2009; he stated that because he "had played to a reasonable standard in England", they were convinced he could perform adequately in his new role. This made him the world's youngest international football coach, beating out previous record-holder Paul Crosbie by two years. However, the position was unpaid.
Watson and Conrad faced many challenges in their new role, including their players' level of physical fitness and addiction to betel leaf, and a toad infestation on their football pitch. Their efforts to set up games against Guam Men's Soccer League teams ran into difficulties with funding for travel; to overcome these difficulties, Watson visited the United Kingdom in an effort to raise sponsorship money for his team. He enlisted his brother Mark to hold a comedy fundraiser for the team. He even wrote to all 92 Premier League and Football League teams in an effort to secure kit donations; among them, only Spurs, Yeovil, and Norwich responded positively. Jim Tobin, secretary-general of the Micronesian Olympic Committee, also provided assistance in efforts to secure funding, but Watson stated that he had even had to pay for some equipment himself. Coyne Airways also provided transportation and sponsorship funds. Watson and Conrad led Pohnpei State on a four-game tour of Guam, which included a victory over Crushers F.C. with a score of 7–1.
After the end of his coaching career on Pohnpei, Watson went on to write a book about his experiences, Up Pohnpei, while Conrad began raising funds for a documentary on their time on the island, The Soccermen, scheduled for release in March 2014. Mark Lomas of ESPN praised Up Pohnpei as a "heartwarming, uplifting antithesis to all that is wrong with the modern game" and contrasted it positively with what he described as "prematurely-released autobiographies from prima donnas keen to detail their difficult Cristal-drinking existences" which dominated football literature at the time. The Big Issue similarly described it as "[f]unny without being condescending or smug" and "a refreshing counterpoint to the commercial excesses of the English Premiership". Nick Carrington of When Saturday Comes also reviewed it favourably.
Up Pohnpei also led to Watson's next international coaching opportunity: Enkhjin Batsumber read an article about the book and e-mailed Watson to ask if he would be interested in moving to Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar to aid in setting up a new team, New Mongol Bayangol FC. He moved to the country in late 2013. Unlike his previous coaching position, this one came with a salary. In contrast to Pohnpei's tropical climate and its frequent precipitation, Watson faced different challenges in Mongolia. The cold weather at the time of his arrival meant that try-outs had to be held indoors, as if for a futsal team. Watson began by holding public try-outs in an effort to find younger players, first in Ulaanbaatar, with further try-outs scheduled in Darkhan and Sainshand. A reality television show is being filmed around the try-outs.
- Up Pohnpei: A Quest to Reclaim the Soul of Football by Leading the World's Ultimate Underdogs to Glory. Profile Books. 2 February 2012. ISBN 978-1846685019.
- "Author profile: Paul C. Watson". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- "Bristol City fan is youngest coach of the worst team in the world". Bristol Post. 14 August 2009. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- "Play up Pohnpei, world's worst footballing nation". Get West London. 11 August 2009. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- Farrell, Callum (15 November 2012). "The Big Interview: Spreading the football gospel to the Pacific Island of Pohnpei". HITC Sport. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- Lomas, Mark (1 February 2012). "Book review: Up Pohnpei". ESPN. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- Jackson, Ben (6 February 2012). "The world's worst team?". The Sun. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- "Micronesia to Mongolia: A coaching quest". FIFA.com. 23 December 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- "Play up Pohnpei! Comedian's brother returns from Micronesian adventure". Sky Sports. 11 February 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
- "Pair's hopes for football minnows". BBC News. 17 August 2009. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- Gee, Alison (12 January 2014). "The coach who's hoping to transform Mongolian football". BBC News. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- Chester, Nick (21 June 2013). "How to become an international soccer coach". Vice Magazine. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- "Up Pohnpei! Mark Watson turns football missionary". London is Funny. 20 May 2010. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- "Pohnpei Soccer Team Tour of Guam – October 2010". Coyne Airways. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- Perez, Frankie (5 October 2010). "Pohnpei Soccer Squad Having A Good Time". Pacific News Center. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- "Book Reviews". The Big Issue. 29 February 2012. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- Carrington, Nick (1 May 2012). "Reviews: Up Pohnpei". When Saturday Comes (303). Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- The Soccermen: Watson & Conrad's blog about their experiences in Micronesia