Haitians Dream Of International Glory
Women footballers from Haiti may be considered international minnows, but they hope to finally make their mark on the world stage, aided by their European professional experience.
The transition across the Atlantic has been difficult for national team members, according to NeriliaMondesir, who has been playing in France since 2017. “It is difficult for Haitian women to play football.” Chances are scarce. “We have to make sacrifices, such as leaving our country and family,” said the 23-year-old Montpellier HSC forward.
Earthquakes in 2010 and 2021 devastated Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas. It has also experienced political upheaval, including the assassination of President JovenelMoise a year ago, as well as a crippling economic crisis.
The hardships have prompted waves of Haitians to flee, many seeking the American dream in the United States. The scandal has also rocked Haiti’s football scene. Yves Jean-Bart, the president of the country’s football federation, was banned for life by FIFA in 2020 after allegations that he sexually harassed and abused several female players, including minors.
Haitian Women’s Love For Soccer
Soccer is a passion and a stimulant that brings joy and hope to all Haitians, regardless of age, gender, or economic and social status. Women’s football is the most critical growth opportunity in football today, and it is FIFA’s top priority.
Although the game has grown exponentially at all levels, the sport’s passion and rising popularity offer vast untapped potential. FIFA is investing in dedicated funding, human resources, and innovative, tailored development programs to help women’s football enter the mainstream, where it belongs.
The Haiti women’s national football team competes in several tournaments, including the CONCACAF Women’s Championship. The team also competes in qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the Summer Olympics, though they have yet to qualify for either tournament.
The Fédération Hatienne de Football is in charge of the team. Along with Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, they are one of the top women’s national football teams in the Caribbean. Shek Borkowski currently coaches the Haiti women’s national football team, as well as the under 17 and 20 teams.
Nobody knew when the Georges brothers (Garry and Phèdre) dared to defy the current trend by organizing a women’s football match between the girls of the Sacred Heart and those of Canada Haitien at Parc Sainte-Thérèse in Pétion-Ville in 1971. I had dared to believe that we were witnessing a tipping point in the emancipation of Haitian women from a practice “reputedly reserved exclusively for men.”
This movement, which began on the historic date of December 19, 1971, would see the birth of a slew of women’s football clubs in less than a year, thanks to a sustained media campaign.
From the Amazons to the Tigresses, Gladiatrice, the Excelsior, and so many more came after.
Here are a few lines from Haitian women’s football’s journey to becoming an activity that has imposed itself on national territory:
- 1972: Establishment of the Women’s Football Commission
- 1973: The first match of Haitian women’s football played at the Sylvio Cator stadium
- 1975: First match of Haitian women’s football internationally and affiliation of women’s football to the FHF
- 1987: Approval of the Haitian Women’s Football League by the FHF and organization of the first national women’s football championship
- 1991: Women’s Concacaf organization at the Sylvio Cator stadium;
- 2018: Participation of the U-20s in France’s FIFA World Cup (U-20).
Women’s football progressed, eventually becoming a national sport in its own right, attracting practitioners and exporting talent abroad.
On December 19, 2021, the FHF will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Haitian women’s football match, which was held on December 19, 1971.
It subsequently designated 2022 as the “Fiftieth Anniversary of Haitian Women’s Football.”
Into The Big Leagues Now!
Fourteen members of Haiti’s women’s national football team play for universities in Europe, and a few for universities in the United States, according to their coach Nicolas Delepine, following their debut at the CONCACAF W tournament in Mexico.
“The first thing we do is send our players to the major leagues,” said the Frenchman. The national team hopes to break new ground by qualifying for Mexico’s 2023 Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Olympics. They will face Mexico on Thursday after losing 3-0 to the United States in Monterrey’s opening match of the eight-team tournament.
Despite the humiliation, US captain Megan Rapinoe praised the Haitians for having “a lot of individual talent.” After the game, Rapinoe spoke to the press about a recent landmark equal pay agreement in her country, but the Haitians left the stadium quietly. Only Mondesir, somewhat surprised, accepted a couple of press questions.
She said that playing in Europe had been difficult for Haitians with little experience. “You must work harder in professional teams than players from other countries,” she explained. Mondesir said that losing the US in Monterrey will help Haitians grow stronger, adding, “We learned a lot.”
The top two teams in each group will advance to the semi-finals and next year’s Women’s World Cup, while the third-place group teams will advance to a global playoff for three final Women’s World Cup spots next February. The CONCACAF champion will go to the Olympics in Paris, while the runners-up and third-place teams will meet in a playoff next year to determine another spot in France in 2024.
The Haitian coach is optimistic that the minnows will one day fulfill their dream of competing in a World Cup. “Haiti is a small country, but it’s a big country in football,” Delepine explained.
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