By Kate Gilliam

           Poverty is something that holds many people back, especially in the sports world. Sports, in general, are normally pretty expensive to participate in. People who don’t have the resources or money don’t get to play sports. This is an issue in our society because kids are not getting exercise and are not able to find a passion in sports. It is healthy for kids and adults to move around and stay fit, and if kids don’t have the opportunity to play sports, then they can’t stay fit and do what they could love; this is a major problem.
Thailand Soccer Team
            On the small Thai island of Panyee, there was a group of boys who loved to watch soccer on their miniature TV. Soccer had never been played on their island, since this island was afloat in the middle of a body of water and there was very limited space. The only sport ever played on the island was boat-racing, so they weren’t sure how they would be able to try soccer.
            One day, one of the boys in the group had an idea to create a soccer team. When the villagers on the island heard, they gave the idea no support. They thought it was not possible. After a few put-downs, the boys thought the villagers were correct; they had nowhere to play or practice. They had a team, but not much confidence.
            After spending some time together, the boys told themselves that they were going to create their own practice area. They collected old wood and tied some used fishing rafts together and next thing you know, they had a place to play! They worked very hard but in the end, it was all worth it. The problem was that the surface was shaky and uneven, plus there were some nails sticking out. The ball ended up in the water a lot and so did the boys, but they didn’t care; this was so exciting for them! They adjusted to their situation, which led to a team with talented footwork. Unfortunately, villagers continued to make fun of them and told them that they had no chance to become a legitimate team on their uneven court.

   One day, one of the boys got a flyer from the mainland of Thailand about a tournament. The boys weren’t sure if they would be good enough to play against the other teams, but they decided to give it a shot. The boys were about to leave for the tournament, planning on wearing their daily clothes, but surprisingly, one of the villagers had gotten them professional jerseys! The whole island had chipped in! Some even came to cheer them on during their games, which really boosted the boys’ confidence.
            At first, the boys were really nervous, but after the game began, they realized what impeccable skills they had, like how their shooting was very accurate from playing with very small goals. The villagers from the island were wrong; they should’ve had more confidence in these boys. The boys had confidence in themselves and that’s what got them to where they were. These novice players ended up making it to the semifinals.
            When the game began, it was raining very hard and the other team was good competition. The conditions were not exactly great for playing soccer and their shoes started to sop up the water. This was uncomfortable for the boys and began to slow them down; they were down by two at the half. They knew they had to come up with something to help them come back. They decided to take off their cleats, they were used to this from playing on the pitch they had created; this allowed them to move much quicker. With their strategy they were able to tie up the game, but the other team had a last minute goal to win it.
            The boys were disappointed that they hadn’t made it to the final game, but their whole community was proud of what they had done, and so were they. They had been successful, especially considering the way they began their team. After that game, soccer became the number one sport in Panyee, Thailand. They ended up building a smoother surface to play on and they also went on to be youth champions of Southern Thailand from 2004 to 2010. This is a great example that if you believe in yourself, that can take you a long way.

Watch a video at explaining the boys’ story from the floating island about how they gathered a soccer team involved in tournaments.

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