Micronesia's soccer team determined to play on after record-breaking losses

When the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) soccer team made world headlines last month after conceding 114 goals in three matches, many thought they would throw in the towel.

But the players — who lost 30-0 to Tahiti, 38-0 to Fiji, and then 46-0 to Vanuatu at the Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea — have vowed to remain on the field.

Stan Foster, the squad's Australian coach, said at the time that he was not concerned about the blow-outs and the competition was all about gaining experience for his players.

But post-match in PNG some of the players could hardly muster a word to explain the losses.

In their match against Vanuatu, they conceded goals at a rate of one every two minutes.

There was even a suggestion that some of them might need counselling to get over the trauma of it all.

But in the end that wasn't necessary because "there was no trauma", Foster said.

"When we got back, everyone was very supportive," he said.

"The people on my island, Yap, said it was just wonderful that their kids had actually gone overseas and been open to the world.

"They thought it was just wonderful that their kids could participate in an international tournament.

"It's nearly unheard of here, there are not many opportunities to go further than Guam for any sort of sport."

Many of the players were still at school, and most had never been outside their home country before.

Foster said one of the players now intends to join a soccer league in Guam, while two others were also looking at a similar path.

Such is the enthusiasm from the FSM squad that Foster is already looking ahead to the next Pacific Games in Tonga in 2019, and beyond that to 2023.

By then he believes the team will have improved enough to be competitive, at least among the Pacific teams.

The coach said he takes his inspiration from Guam who last featured in the Pacific Games in 2011, and took some heavy beatings (although nothing on the scale of Micronesia's brutal experience in Port Moresby).

"We have a very close relationship," Foster said.

"I was talking to the Guam Football Association's general secretary Tino San Gil, and he said it's a start for you guys, you're where we were 25 years ago, and look where we are now!"

Now a member of the Asian Football Confederation, Guam has shocked the football community by winning both of its opening matches in World Cup qualifying, defeating Turkmenistan and India, to go to the top of its group.

"What we lack is the finance that Guam has because of the presence of the US military on the island, but they have been very supportive," Foster said.

"We couldn't have made it even this far, without the donation of boots, balls and other equipment that has allowed us to expand our school program, and the local league.

"Even the uniforms the players wore at the Pacific Games came from Guam, it was their reserve strip."

Foster is now hoping football's world governing body, FIFA, will step in with an offer of assistance for the Micronesian team.

He travelled back from the Pacific Games on the same plane as a FIFA delegate who was sent to inspect facilities and to build a picture of how soccer was developing at the grassroots in FSM.

"He gave us a positive report, " Foster said.

"He was quite impressed with everything and now we're waiting to see if we become affiliated to FIFA; we're hoping for a decision in November."

And if the answer is yes, that would open up a whole raft of funding opportunities, as well give FSM access to FIFA's technical advisors and their development programs — many of which have already been rolled out elsewhere in the Pacific in recent years.

"I feel like I'm on the threshold of a whole new team sport here in Micronesia," Foster said.

"Maybe within my lifetime we may get some kids getting cadetships, scholarships overseas in the US or maybe in Asia. I'd just like to see soccer progress here.

"Soccer has been booming over the last three years on [Yap], and it's growing on the other islands, Chuuk and Pohnpei, as well."

And it seems there will be football followers around the world cheering on Foster and his team.

"I've done interviews for broadcasters in Britain, Portugal, Canada, Colombia and Brazil," he said.

"So if nothing else at least people know where we are now and that we're nowhere near Indonesia.