Hands held high in Haiti
It’s hard to disambiguate Haiti from the natural disasters which devastated the country in the recent years. It’s currently estimated to be the fifth poorest country in the world, which obviously ensues hardship for the population and a lack of colour in their life. The stranglehold which poverty impounds on the country simply makes dealing with natural disasters even harder. Reports from last year stated Haitians needed humanitarian aid more than others, as the country still bears the scars from the 2010 earthquake. Others have also stated the recovery is far from complete.
A sombre note for sure. It’s time like these; people search for a hero. The people in Haiti don’t own much in material or financial terms. It seems strange that even a Haitian football team exists, but when all else is gone we’ve got to forage for something which at least can make us smile; bringing some joy to our lives. Many people turn to sport for escapism. Football is the most popular. The Stadio Sylvio Carter might not sell out the 30,000 capacity, football is very much alive in the country with people following the national team, a local team or even a club from elsewhere. Haiti isn’t really a major player in football. One lone appearance in the World Cup back in 1974 for the men's team is the pinnacle. Right now, there is no professional women’s football league in Haiti.
This team is one of the few Haitian teams to even go to a youth competition. Placed alongside Nigeria, China, and Germany. Who all are considered to be top calibre women’s football nations.. Especially when you inspect at the women’s full-international rankings, Germany is heralded as the second best in the women’s game. China comes in at 17th in the world, no slouches in the women’s game at all. You’d expect these countries with their decent ranking in the senior rankings and generally high quality of life/rich directorate in power, they’d instil a good youth setup fin women’s football. In the case of Haiti, they’ll get trounced by them? Right?
Not at all. Absolutely no trouncing took place. Let me explain as to why. In their first game, it was clear Haiti was better than China. Taking more shots, having more of them on-target, being more accurate with their passing, fouled less, also they weren’t caught offside as much. I’m not sure how much more criteria you want, but were unlucky to concede two goals which went against play in the overall game. Mondesir, the Haitian striker, opened her account for the tournament from the penalty spot, but it ended 2-1 to the Asian side.
The game against Nigeria may have been considered as the most winnable - due to their lower ranking than the other two. Yet again, the statistics show Haiti outplayed their opponents; even having more possession in this match.
At this point, I’d like to say the penalty separating the two teams was controversial, lucky and arguable. Sadly, there isn’t enough poetic license in the world to justify the tackle from the Haitian defender, Dougenie Joseph, as it was a bad tackle - grounding the Nigerian attacker. That was the lone defensive slip from them, as it was Falconette keeper who was the busier throughout the whole game.
Lastly, with their backs against the wall with zero points, things got even worse as they had to play the big girls from Germany. Such a prominent force in the women’s game, up there with the USA. It was never going to be easy against this side, never mind when you consider Haiti’s status in world football as well as their lack of opportunities to invest in it.
60 minutes gone, they’re 3-0 down. What were you expecting? Haitian spirit or not, this incarnation from the DFB wasn’t to be trifled with, this was their game. Well, it was until Mondesir showed us why she’s already a full international, playing in the French division. Two goals from her in the ‘63 and the ’73 minute made it look like a contest. That’s how it finished. An incredible achievement in itself; being competitive with the Germans.
Yes, the run of results says LLL. It doesn’t quite tell the full story, nor does the table tells the full story for this team making their debut at the tournament. This team scored as many as China who finished above them. They scored more than Nigeria who advanced to the next stage. Both of which were outplayed by Haiti. In the final game, Mondesir and the girls have Germany a real fight to the finish. That’s football, you play well – you can still be unrewarded.
Mondesir scored the goals and took the headlines, but it was a team effort which shows goes to show that a team is more than its allied parts. The collective effort from this generation of young Haitian women should instantly graduate to the national team - on this effort alone. It may, well it most certainly should send shockwaves to the Haitian FA. Who, with, their modest budget may want to reallocate some funds to women’s football given this performance. Maybe even a semi-professional league for Haitian women to hone their craft and continually give back to this country dealing with tragedy every day.