Starlets help Haiti soar

  • Three youngsters have helped Haiti climb to 100th on the global ladder

  • Haitian hopes are high for the forthcoming Concacaf Gold Cup

  • Coach Marc Collat attributes their success to the fans

The 2010 earthquake wreaked havoc on all aspects of life in Haiti, and football was no exception. Stadiums had to be rebuilt, club sides reassembled, and national teams prepared for a return to international competition.

However, following much work over the last nine years, Haiti’s efforts in laying the foundations of a youth football infrastructure are starting to bear fruit. This is evidenced by their recent qualification for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019, eliminating regional heavyweights Honduras along the way.

Investing in youth is key for the success of any national team, and in recent years several promising players have climbed the ranks and are now shouldering responsibility in the senior side.

A shining example of this is Richelor Sprangers, a tall and pacey forward currently plying his trade in the Netherlands with NAC Breda. He is joined by other precocious talents such as Arcus Carlens and Josue Duverger, who play in France and Portugal respectively. These three are all still under the age of 22 and have their sights set on reliving the glory of the 1970s, when Les Grenadiers went as far as qualifying for the 1974 FIFA World Cup Germany™.

An exciting 2019 Haiti sit 100th on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, reaching this lofty position after finishing top of the qualifying group for the 2019/20 Concacaf Nations League. This feat is all the more impressive when you consider they have only played one friendly this year, defeating Cuba 2-1. Tougher challenges lie ahead, however, with a busy 2019 schedule awaiting the Caribbean islanders.

First up is a 6 June warm-up for the Gold Cup 2019 against Chile, who themselves are preparing for the Copa America. This is followed, 11 days later, by their Group B opener against Bermuda in CONCACAF’s flagship tournament, in which they will also be facing Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

"The Haitian people turn to football in search of hope and their support makes us stronger,” said Haiti coach Marc Collat. "They’re dreaming of us beating the bigger national teams, which is why we feel honoured to be flag-bearers for our country. We’re symbols of national pride.

“We believe in ourselves. Given what happened in our last game against Cuba, we can use the support of our fans to do well in the Gold Cup.”

Of that there seems to be little doubt. Haiti have managed to overcome great difficulties and create an unbreakable bond between fans and players. How far can this dream borne out of tragedy be taken, and how much more joy can football bring the people of Haiti?

Could they conceivably even return to the top 50 on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking? Only time will tell. What is certain, though, is that Haiti’s steely determination and desire to overcome obstacles will continue to drive them forward and trouble plenty of teams along the way.