The kids on the small floating village of Koh Panyee in Thailand had a problem: Though their village held not an inch of soil, they were determined to start a soccer team and play the game they spent hours watching on television.
First, they gathered spare pieces of wood. They spent after-school hours building a floating “field,” with pieces of wood nailed to old fishing rafts. The surface was uneven and slippery, nails poked out of the wood, and the open sides meant that balls frequently rolled into the water. But the boys played anyway.
One morning, one of the boys showed the group a flier about an upcoming tournament on the mainland. They weren’t sure they were good enough to enter. They did it anyway.
Once they started playing their first game of the tournament, they realized they were better than they thought. The official-size goal nets were easier to score on than their small ones. They advanced to the semifinal.
But at the semifinal, their luck turned. Rain made playing more difficult, and their shoes more sluggish. At the half, the other team was up by two points, and the Koh Panyee team didn’t know how they’d make a comeback.
Until one boy took off his shoes. Others followed. Playing in bare feet was more comfortable for them.
They scored two points in the second half and tied the game. At the last minute, the other team scored and won. Still, the team returned home proud to have come so far. In fact, the entire village was proud.
Soccer became Panyee’s No. 1 pastime. The village built a smooth new floating field. The Panyee Football Club is now regarded as one of Southern Thailand’s best soccer teams, winning the youth championship title for Southern Thailand for seven years running.
Lesson: Amazing, unexpected things can happen when you stop watching and start doing.
— Adapted from “Make THE Difference,” Thai Military Bank.
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