Even before their opening game at the Boys' Youth Olympic Football Tournament, Haiti’s presence has been strongly felt. Their first training session at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday attracted significant attention, perhaps due to non-footballing reasons – the Caribbean nation has had to overcome unimaginable hardship after an earthquake in January left 300,000 people dead and over a million homeless.
“We had started training together even before the earthquake,” Jean Ducasse, one of head coach Carlo Marcelin’s assistants, told FIFA.com after their one-hour session. “But our work was stopped by the disaster and the team were forced to be dispersed to different regions. It was only three months ago that we regathered to rebuild, thanks to great help and support from people from all walks of life and FIFA.”
After spending the past months preparing at a training centre gained through the FIFA Goal Project, the team arrived at Singapore 2010 aiming to put a smile back on the faces of their people back home. “We are glad to travel such a long way to meet the local people and make friends with participants from across the world,” continued Ducasse.
“Our aim is to make sure that our young players gain experience for the future, and we will try to do our job well to bring pleasure to our people home. This is a chance for us to show the world that life has not stopped, so we come here to display hope.”
This determination was evident on the faces of Haiti’s focused youngsters, who were too absorbed in their training to joke about on the pitch. “Many lost lives in the earthquake and we are sad,” said midfielder Carlos Gluce. “But here we can concentrate on our games, and try to forget and recover.”
Still, representing the country at the FIFA competition is a pride to the teenagers, as playmaker Jean Bonhomme told FIFA.com: “We are proud to perform at such a high level and it is a unique chance to make our country proud. After doing out utmost to get over the difficulties, we are ready to achieve a good result.”
Haiti’s tournament goal? “To become champions or at least win a medal,” the 14-year-old declared.