With all the excitement about the World Cup, I love this true story about the Ko Panyee Football Club in Thailand. It is only 5 minutes long. Whatever challenges you may be facing I hope it will encourage you in your day:

Here is a short synopsis of the video and some reflections:

It starts in 1986 with the children who live on a floating village in the middle of the sea. They love watching football on TV and want to start a football team. The only problem is that there is no where to play or even practice.

So they hit on the idea of collecting wood to build their own pitch. And that’s what they do in their spare time after school. Its not a very good pitch – it shakes, its uneven and nails stick out, which is even more hazardous as they play with bare feet.
As they persevere they realise that learning to play on a slippery surface on a small pitch is actually helping them become more skilful. They become very good  at controlling the ball in a small space.
One of  the boys hears about a football tournament on the mainland. Even though some of the other villagers think them ridiculous and crazy they nervously decide to enter.
By this time many of the villagers had become so inspired by the perseverance of these children that they provided football kits for them.
The boys were pleasantly surprised to discover that the skills they had developed on the wooden pitch and the fact they were use to aiming at smaller goal posts meant that they really were a force to be reckoned with.
They get to the semi-final, but find themselves down by 2 goals in pouring rain. Its at that point they realise they can play their best game in their bare feet. They score 2 more goals, but still lose the match.
But that is ok because they are so glad to have just got so far.
They have provided hope to the whole village. They get a new pitch with no nails and go on to become one of South Thailand’s best football clubs.

One of the reasons I love this story is that these boys were just following their heart and passions. They weren’t setting out to become champions. They had found something that they loved and they just wanted to find ways to do that better and better.

Here also are some things that challenge me from this true story:

1. Am I just going to be a spectator or am I going to participate in the life I have been given? 
There is a time to be a spectator and watch what others do. These boys loved watching the excellent skills of their football heroes on TV. There is a lot we can learn from the lives of great men and women from the past and present. We can and should applaud and admire them. Unfortunately most people stop there. I am convinced that each one of us is called to our own unique path and journey. It may or may not be spectacular and dramatic, but each one is important – because each individual is valuable and important. This old Hassidic story illustrates it well:

Nahum of Bratslav said:
“When I appear before the Heavenly tribunal and I am asked, ‘Why did you not lead your people like Moses?’
I shall not be afraid.
‘When I am asked, ‘Why were you not a David who worshiped me and shepherded your people?’
I will be calm.
‘When they query, ‘Why were you not Elijah who spoke the truth and brought forth justice?’
Even then I will not shake.
“Ah, but when they ask, ‘Nahum, why were you not Nahum?’
It is then I will tremble from head to toe!”

Am I living the life God has called forth from me or am I just a spectator? There are only two choices – to watch life or to actually play life. Only one way wins.

2. Am I going to allow my limitations to be an excuse that I cannot do anything? What can I do with what I have been given?
These boys had huge limitations to try to realise their dreams – playing football on a poor island with no space does sound ridiculous! But that did not stop them.
There is a wonderful Chinese proverb that I recently came across:

“You have to stand by the side of the river a long time before a roast duck will fly into your mouth.”

These children just took what they had been given and allowed themselves to begin an adventure which they did not know where it would lead them. To quote Tolekein:

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

Time to stay a spectator or time to make a difference. That is the choice. (For a personal story of that see the post 7 Lessons From A Passport).

3. What had appeared to be a limitation and a handicap was actually the means of their growth and development.
The video shows how what appeared to be apparent weaknesses – playing barefoot and in a confined space – actually became a unique source of strength. For historical examples of that see posts on the lives of Churchill and Lincoln. I know how easy it is for me to use my limitations as an excuse for inaction – but those limitations can be huge stepping stones to what God and life has for me.

4. Breaking free of our own personal limitations gives permission to others to believe that something better is possible.
Their whole experience was something that went way beyond football. It brought hope to a whole community that something greater and more meaningful was possible.
But it started with a first step. To quote Goethe:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

I don’t want to give the impression that you just need to believe and you can have what you want. Life is much more complex than that. However, I think there is something beautiful about a life lived with wonder-filled bold humility that is just incredibly powerful.

In summary, there are only 3 kinds of people: those that watch things happen; those those that make things happen; and those that say, ‘What happened?’ Which group do you want to be in?

What are your reflections from the video and this post? It would be great to have your thoughts and comments.