This year’s FIFA Fair Play award went to Haiti’s U-17 women’s national team, who carried on bravely despite the worst kind of suffering, loss and pain following the devastating earthquake of January 2010.
Young members of the national team played on while the world crumbled around them. When the massive 7.0 earthquake of January 2010 ravaged the Caribbean nation, the team were training at the national stadium in the capital of Port au Prince, just 15 miles from the epicentre. The scenes surrounding the training session were nothing short of apocalyptic, with team members screaming out and crying in the noise and devastation of one of the largest earthquakes in the region’s turbulent and troubled history.
While the fear-stricken players were all sparred, their coach Jean-Yves Labaze - described as “like a father” to most of the team - was pinned down and killed by falling rubble while attending meetings in the nearby FA headquarters.
Losing not only a father figure in Labaze, nearly all members of the team lost actual family members and friends in the quake. Goalkeeper Alexandra Coby suffered the agony of losing her entire immediate family in the chaos that ensued. No one would have faulted them for pulling out of the CONCACAF qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup which were scheduled for Costa Rica a little over two months after the earthquake. But the girls summoned their strength and carried on, training in the Dominican Republic and Panama - who both welcomed the team to their facilities with open arms - while the national stadium in Port au Prince was used as a makeshift tent city.
“If there was no football, we would be nothing,” captain Hayana Jean Francois said, stunned by the after-effects of the earthquake that killed more than 230,000 of her fellow Haitians and left nearly one million homeless. Desperate to reach the first women’s world finals for Haiti, the girls came up short, losing 9-0 to the USA and 2-0 to hosts Costa Rica.
For their courage and strength, the Haitian girls were congratulated as heroes, for theirs was a triumph that transcended any football pitch. They are all worthy winners of the 2010 FIFA Fair Play award. I would like to thank FIFA for this prize. I want to share it with all the youngsters, especially the ones who are suffering. Haiti will get better." said Hayana Jean Francois after picking up the award on her team's behalf.