A Nottingham Football Coach in Micronesia: First Impressions

Words: Chris Smith
Tuesday 02 May 2017
reading time: min, words

Nottingham-based football coach, Chris Smith, has landed in Micronesia. But what does he make of the islands?


I'm not really sure what I expected when I moved from Nottingham to the middle of the Pacific.

There was some panic in the days before leaving. You start asking yourself silly questions, “What can't I get there? Will I have to do without hair wax? Whiteboard markers? Socks?” You start trying to cover all bases. Well, as much as you can when you’ve given yourself seven kilograms of hand luggage to move over 8,000 miles with; the other thirty kilograms being used up by football kits, boots and balls.

Anyway, I'm here to do a job. I can do without a few home comforts. I'm here to coach football, or at least, be useful for the future of football in Micronesia.

I've just arrived on an island called Pohnpei, one of the more populous islands of the hundreds that make up Micronesia. It really is proof that love for football and the talent that follows really hasn't escaped any part of the globe. And thankfully, neither have other important things. Tonight's successful shopping trip for doughnuts and mayonnaise proves I won't have to go without the other things I love. Actually, it's been a remarkably easy transition.

Sadly, there is one part of football missing here and other nations in this part of the world; the chance to take part in football's global competitions and garnering the financial support needed to get there. With Micronesia one of only a handful of undisputed nations to be denied FIFA membership and all that comes with it, the development of the game here has been slow and difficult, but not without dedication and hard work from a handful of people.

When you think of a football association, you think of something resembling a big company with shiny offices and big expense accounts. Here, it more closely resembles the running of a Sunday League club. On this small island of 30,000 people, there is the thriving Pohnpei Premier League, just reaching its end of season playoffs, as well as a dedicated squad of thirty players training every week night for the 2018 Micro Games in Yap.

So, how have I ended up here? As a football coach, I started my career volunteering for a football charity on my days off whilst living in Vietnam. I was never really set to take the typical route. Learning my trade at Nottingham Forest's Development Centre and Lincoln City's Academy was great, but there's nothing like being somewhere that gives you the chance to really make a difference. So far, this has taken me back to Vietnam and onwards to India, but this is definitely the most unique challenge.

My main target here is to give young players the chance to embrace football for the first time. Even though I've only been here a few days, I’ve had the opportunity to present my ideas to the Department of Education, with the Director of Education and the state’s elementary school principals in attendance. This has resulted in being asked to visit twelve of the island's schools in the next two weeks to give them footballs, and show the teachers and children how to play. I hope I can inspire these schools to run ongoing football programs and help produce the next generation of Micronesian talent.

Follow Chris on Twitter @coachedbychris to keep up with what’s happening over in Micronesia, visit and share his GoFundMe page to help support this project.

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