Known for individual technique and bombastic physical strength on the pitch, Haiti is currently undergoing a massive footballing revival in spite of over-arching social, economic and political upheaval. With a new academy system in place on the island with the aid of FIFA's Goal Programme, U-17 (and sometimes U-20) boss Jean-Yves Labaze is personally overseeing the development of a new crop of talent and grooming the young guns for future glories to match past and current heroes of the Haitian diaspora like Monno Sannon, Arsene August, Alexandre Boucicaut and Jean-Jacques Pierre. With their senior and U-20 teams currently champions of the Caribbean (for the first time) and having jumped to 88th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola world ranking, Labaze and his boys are hoping to feed the senior team with promising players for many years to come. A fine group-winning performance at the U-17 CONCACAF qualifiers in Honduras spoke to a new, organised and effective Haitian football. Korea 2007 will be the first-ever FIFA U-17 World Cup for the impoverished nation - the world's first black Republic, born of a slave rebellion in 1804 - and their first finals since they shocked the world to reach the FIFA World Cup in West Germany in 1974
Haiti travelled to Tegucigalpa for qualifying Group A as heavy underdogs. But after their first match, a 1-1 draw against Honduras, it became clear that this was not the talented but disorganised Haitian practitioners of recent years. There was a new tactical acumen and overall collective organisation. And although they surrendered the lead they got on the quarter-hour mark through Jean Francis Fabien Vorbe, Haiti hung on to their draw proudly, resisting both the talented Hondurans on the pitch and nearly 30,000 fans in the stands at the Tiburcio Carias Andino Stadium. Their second match was more of the same, and a 0-0 draw against rampaging favourites and defending world champions Mexico was more than most Haitians could have imagined. Everything hinged on their final contest against El Salvador. And the islanders let their native style ring, running out 3-0 winners thanks to goals from Vorbe, Harold Junior Charles and Normil Valdo. Tied with the hosts on five points from three games, the Haitians finished in first place by virtue of their superior goal difference.
Jean Francis Fabien Vorbe hails from one of the most notable footballing families in Haitian history, previously producing such stars as Charles, Sebastian and Phillipe Vorbe. But his name was not what got him named top scorer at Group A qualifying in Tegucigalpa, but rather his knack for turning up in the right place at the right time. Scoring the crucial opener in the 15th minute of their first game against the hosts, Vorbe popped up again in the 3-0 win over El Salvador on the final matchday with a stunning strike from distance. Blessed with blistering pace, vision and overall talent, Vorbe will be hoping to keep the family name up in lights and help Haiti make a stir in Korea this summer.
Since taking over the U-17 reins, the experienced Jean Yves Labaze - a native of Léogane - has overseen a new academy in Port au Prince for the last two years. In an attempt to overcome social and economic factors and turn Haiti into an organised footballing power, the boss has been working with the same crop of young Haitian players for the last two years in a comprehensive format - and many of the players have been together since the age of eleven. All the hard work culminated as the boss saw his side swoop to reach the final of the 2006 CFU Youth Cup (U-16), beating favourites and hosts Trinidad & Tobago along the way. All in the CONCACAF region stood up to take notice of a new-look Haitian outfit and pay tribute to the mastermind, Labaze. A first-place finish in Korea 2007 qualifying was, according to the coach, just another step in a long process of team building.
What they said...
"We've been working with this particular generation of players for quite some time now, and we are beginning to see the fruits of our hard labours. Qualifying for the U-17 World Cup is just another step along the way of improving Haitian football and looking toward the future." Jean-Yves Labaze, Haiti U-17 head coach.
|6||Jean Jacques BITIELO|
|8||Saint Cyr WIDNER|
|17||Joseph GUEMSLY JUNIOR|
|15||Wiselet SAINT LOUIS|
|LABAZE Jean Yves|