Blatter plans Haitian development task force
© EFE

Visiting Haiti for the first time since the devastating earthquake three years ago, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter has pledged to boost the country's football infrastructure with a new dedicated task force.

Following intensive discussions on the Caribbean nation's development with President Michel Martelly, the pair agreed that a unified group comprising members of FIFA, CONCACAF, the Haiti FA and the national government would best provide the necessary impetus the game needs.

Speaking from the Sylvio Cator Stadium, development for which was supported by a special FIFA development fund, President Blatter outlined the plans to aid the game there. "We have come here to support Haiti in its efforts to rebuild football in the country after the 2010 earthquake.

"There is so much talent in the country, and we need to do more to let that talent flourish. The will of the Haitian President is there, and we decided together to create a working group with FIFA, CONCACAF, the Haiti FA and the government which by the end of this year should establish a plan to revive Haitian football."

It was a deal that excited CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb, who was also in attendance, seeing real potential in the proposal. He said: "Today is a defining moment for CONCACAF and for Haiti. When we join forces with football and the governments, we can obtain more investment for our sport."

After the earthquake, football was the first to restart its activities in Haiti, and it was only possible thanks to the support of FIFA.
Yves Jean-Bart, President of the Haiti Football Association

Following the investment Haiti has received since the disaster, President Martelly expressed his passion for rebuilding the country's ability to play football, as well as outlining how sport can help the country beyond the lines of the pitch. "We love football in Haiti. I am a big fan and a former player, and we need to make an effort in our country to put Haitian football back in the top of our region.

"The government supports the game and we will focus on infrastructure, having built over 40 stadiums in the last two years. We need to give our youth an opportunity, because football has so many positive aspects, not only in sport, but in terms of education and health."

It was a note that rang true with President Blatter too. "Education and the development programmes are at the base of football. We need to bring football to the schools, and for this we need the support of the governments. And we need to train the educators," he said. "At FIFA level, we will continue to support Haiti as we have done with the USD 4 million provided in a development fund following the 2010 earthquake."

Dedicated development
That total built on the USD 3 million donated to the post-earthquake cause, including funds from emergency aid and revenues from friendly games played by the 32 participating teams at the FIFA 2010 World Cup South Africa™. This has gone towards developing infrastructure - including the Sylvio Cator Stadium - and re-energising competitions in the nation, as well as the foundation of a women's U-17 team.

In addition to that, the new Haitian FA headquarters - also supported by the fund - was inaugurated during President Blatter's visit amidst a dazzling display of local culture for the onlooking crowd.

Amongst those there was Yves Jean-Bart, President of the Haiti Football Association (FHF), who on President Blatter's provided a terrifying first-hand account of the disaster when visiting the Home of FIFA following the event. Haiti lost several members of its football family in the tragedy, indeed, Jean-Bart was still bandaged in the pair's meeting three years ago.

The United Nations estimate that some 220,000 people were killed and 1.5 million others were made homeless by the earthquake, and the FHF themselves saw 32 bodies pulled from the wreckage of the previous headquarters, but Jean-Bart emitted positivity during today's visit.

"After the earthquake, football was the first to restart its activities in Haiti, and it was only possible thanks to the support of FIFA," he said. "Step by step, we are rebuilding the facilities and the football activities."

On the pitch there has also been cause for optimism. With the future of Haitian football on show as the U-17 and U-20 sides both participated at their respective CONCACAF tournaments this year, the opening of the new centre is another positive step forwards which is in keeping with improvements in the national side’s fortunes. Haiti may have failed in their quest to reach the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, but they reached their highest-ever position in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking in January this year, climbing to 38th place, jumping an impressive 18 places between November and December last year.