Until three decades ago, life on the fishing island was of Koh Panyee in southern Thailand was dependent on the Andaman Sea for food and income.
Today, the island is a tourist destination famous for fresh fish and pearls – and its floating football pitch.
Inspired by the World Cup in 1986, a group of young football fans decided to form a football club and build a pitch on water since there was barely land to play – a decision that helped lift the island’s communities out of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy.
The boys built up unique football skills after training on the unstable platform and soon began playing against other teams in Thailand.
Panyee FC won seven consecutive regional championships from 2004 and is considered one of the best football clubs in Thailand.
The original founders of the football club are grown men with children of their own, some playing in the Panyee FC teams.
“The inhabitants are proud of the club and encourage their children to play because it has changed their lives for the better,” says Barasan, one of the Panyee FC founders who is now one of the coaches training children on the island.
“Nowadays the market is crowded with tourists. Trading has flourished and the demands on goods and services has increased.”
In this short film, children of Koh Panyee tell the story of how the original founders first built the floating pitch after being inspired by the 1986 FIFA World Cup and how it changed their lives.