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Former Northern Ireland footballer who lived in Guam hopes for a peaceful solution to crisis

By Victoria Leonard

A Coleraine man who was the former manager of Guam's national football team has said he is hoping "cool heads" will prevail after North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un threatened to launch a nuclear missile strike on the tiny west Pacific island.

Former Newcastle United goalkeeper and manager Willie McFaul (73) lived on the remote US territory in Micronesia with his wife Eileen for five years after he took charge of the island's team.

Earlier this week, the island, which houses a US military base, was threatened with missile strikes by North Korea.

US President Donald Trump responded by warning that any attack would be met with "fire and fury".

Willie believes that locals on the island will be feeling "apprehensive" at the aggressive rhetoric being bandied about.

The Co Londonderry man (above), who was honoured for his contribution to island life on Guam between 1999 and 2004, said he is hoping that the situation can be resolved peacefully.

"It's not pleasant and it's not diplomatic, and I would like to think everyone would have a cool head in that situation," he said.

"I don't think people should be getting carried away.

"From a distance it's surprising the comments that have been made by both parties.

"It's a very fragile situation at the moment and Guam is very strategically placed.

"My wife and I have a lot of feelings for Guam. We were there for five years and we were very well looked after and met a lot of nice people.

"I feel for the people of Guam that the island has been dragged into the spotlight for this reason."

Willie moved there in 1999 after a 22-year career at Newcastle United. He was also capped six times for Northern Ireland.

"Fifa were supplying money to 26 developing countries in Asia. Guam was one of them and they needed qualified people to send out there," he explained.

"I got a phone call from the Irish Football Association when I was in Florida and was asked if I would go out there. I was told that Guam was very similar to Florida.

"In those days you had to fly for 33 hours to get there - first to London, then Bangkok, then Manila and on to Guam. It's like a little dot on the map.

"Initially we went out for three or four months, then we were asked to stay for another three to four years, and in total we ended up staying for five years.

"My wife and I found it to be an amazing island full of different nationalities and cultures - Koreans, Japanese, Australians, Filipinos and island people.

"Part of the island is a vacation area for the Japanese and the Koreans, and being an American territory they even have a Hard Rock cafe and Planet Hollywood, which was something we didn't expect."

Despite the overwhelming popularity of American sports such as baseball and basketball on Guam, Willie said that the islanders overcame their initial shyness and embraced the beautiful game.

Now back in his native Coleraine, Willie said his thoughts are with his friends on the island.

"The people of Guam are a very proud people and I would say they would be very disturbed at the minute," he added.

Belfast Telegraph


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