Former Bleuet Bazile has high hopes for Haiti

  • Herve Bazile plays on the wing for Haiti’s full national team

  • He represented France at the FIFA U-17 World Cup

  • Shares his views with on Saturday’s match between the two countries

On paper at least, there could hardly be a bigger gap between France and Haiti ahead of their meeting in Goiania on Saturday. Top of Group C with two wins out of two, the French have already qualified for the last 16 at Brazil 2019, whereas the Haitians, bottom of the pool after defeats in their first two games, need a miracle to reach the knockout phase.

But there is more to the match than football. A former French colony that gained independence following a slave revolt, the Caribbean island has maintained close links with its mother country. Those links even extend to the FIFA U-17 World Cup, for it was against France that Haiti picked up their one and only point in the competition’s history to date, at Korea 2007.

“I remember that tournament and that game very clearly,” recalled Herve Bazile, who now plays on the wing for Haiti’s senior national team but was in the France side that day. “It’s only now, though, that I’ve realised just how important that match was for Haiti.

“For me personally, I was playing against my roots, against the land of my ancestors, which was a pretty big deal for me, something pretty special,” he added. “I remember it being a great game, very keenly contested. I followed their [Haiti’s] progress closely, seeing where they developed and the values they projected during the tournament. They were a team of warriors and they won me over.”

Did you know?

Fredler Bijou Christophe, Haiti’s captain at Brazil 2019, names Herve Bazile as his favourite Grenadiers player.

Haiti have stuck to those values. Determined, combative and attack-minded, Les Grenadiers have given their all in both their games to date, without any reward. If they are to advance to the next round, they need to pull off something of a shock against the French.

“Beating France? Well, I wouldn’t see that as a “shock” necessarily. Haitian football has come on so much in the last few years,” said Bazile. “There’s no pressure on them and they just have to go for it. Whether they pick up one or three points, it would be great for them to get a positive result. It would make the people of Haiti so happy and would be just reward for all the hard work that’s been put in.”

That work has not just gone into improving the U-17s. The country’s men’s and women’s teams have made great strides, at all age levels, as recent results show. As well as earning a place at Brazil 2019, Haiti also qualified for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup France 2018. And only this year, Bazile and his Grenadier team-mates defied the odds to reach the semi-finals of the Concacaf Gold Cup.

Closing the gap

“The country and the national association have made a huge effort to develop the game at all levels: clubs, national teams, infrastructure, training, etc,” said the Le Havre player. “Football is massive in the country now. You can feel that change taking place, that we’re moving up. I really feel that we’re closing the gap on the big footballing nations.”

Reigning world champions at senior level, France are one of those big guns, and Saturday’s game provides the islanders with an opportunity to gauge just how far they have come. “That’s true, and aside from the history that unites our two countries, playing France is something special for the whole nation,” said Bazile. “They’re a football powerhouse, and it’s a great game to play in because you really want to give your all. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.”

Asked to come up with a prediction, however, the Haiti winger played it safe: “No, I’m sorry. I’m not going to risk it. May the best team win.”