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Up Pohnpei

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In a market saturated with in-depth analyses of how money rules the game, sitting alongside prematurely-released autobiographies from prima donnas keen to detail their difficult Cristal-drinking existences, Up Pohnpei stands out as a shining beacon of football lierature, oozing moral fibre and radiating the pure light of the sport for all to consume.

In 2007, disillusioned Football Italia journalist Paul Watson and his friend Matt Conrad decided to embark on a quest to become international footballers, by finding the country with the world's worst football team. Research (on Wikipedia, of course) led them to the tiny island of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia, but their dreams were quashed by the country's strict citizenship laws.

However, a meeting in London with a former inhabitant of Pohnpei convinces them that, although they can't play, they could perhaps become coaches of the long-defunct national team.

What follows is an entertaining account of the pair's admirable adventure, as they cross several time zones in an attempt to reignite the football flame on Pohnpei, which has a sky-high obesity rate and little interest in sport.

Watson paints a vivid picture of life on the remote pacific isle - which can claim one of the wettest climates in the world - and of the colourful characters and cultural contrasts he encounters along the way.

It is grassroots football at its rawest as an almost-forgotten pastime is brought back to the fore on Pohnpei. Watson and Conrad's passion for the game pours off the page, leaving the reader to will the unlikely duo on towards their seemingly impossible goal of guiding the ultimate underdogs to their first win.

A heartwarming, uplifting antithesis to all that is wrong with the modern game, Up Pohnpei is the must-read football book of 2012.

Up Pohnpei is published by Profile Books and will be released on February 2

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