Category Archives: Haiti Through Sam’s Eyes

Game Against Australia 2012

So, soccer is weird. Sometimes we are really happy about very little accomplishments to the common eye. For instance, this man who plays basketball always told me that it was more fun to watch basketball because there’s this huge ball, huge people, a small net, and a million points. In soccer, we have one HUGE net, and we get very excited about one little ol’ goal (his words not mine). When you read this, bare in mind that us soccer players don’t get to score a ton, so we take pride in the little things.

Onto the game against Australia. Now, before I tell you the score, if I even will, let me tell you that I’ve played with this team for over three years and I haven’t seen them play this well in a very long time. Discipline. That is one of the demons in any professional athlete wanting to get better. Don’t eat Taco Bell. Don’t eat donuts. Don’t eat all the best worst food in the world. How? Discipline. And just for the record, I eat all of those things.  We had SO MUCH discipline. And that is a struggle for all teams playing in a new system with new teammates. You want to default to doing what feels comfortable instead of what the “team plan” is. I fall accustom to this often. Especially when I am forced to not run when it feels like I should. Discipline. I need more of that.

The team looked amazing. Did I mention that Australia is No. 8 in the world right now and it wasn’t a blow out! They scored all of their goals within the first 30 minutes. Then we got disciplined. And they didn’t score again. It’s amazing what an underdog (and I only say underdog because Haiti isn’t even in the top 50 teams), it’s amazing what we can do if we stay disciplined. I am always amazed by my team. The strength. The will to continue. The pure ability for our forward, Manoucheka Pierre Louis to do a bicycle kick mid-game! I almost forgot about that. Again. Amazed.

So, unfortunately, I had to leave them again, BUT they get to go home when they haven’t in a very long time. Families are missed, their home cooked meals are missed, and of course, being able to speak their own language ALL the time is sorely missed.

Even though I can’t wait to play with my sisters again, it’s great that they are going home to see their OTHER loved ones. I am so proud to have had the opportunity to play with my team tonight. M’ap sonje ekip mwen!

Haiti Plays Australia

Have you ever caught yourself asking “why me?” Why am I not taller? Why can’t I run faster? Why is it that my sister got the long hair? Obviously, I’ve asked a few “why’s” in my day. But do you ever notice that we only question life when it isn’t going our way? Well, today I discovered an answer to a “why” that I hadn’t even asked because it must not have made the “why” cut; possibly because it was too positive.

Let me explain. I met two men today who kind of made me realize the impact of me being here can make. These men and I share a very important common goal: help the Women’s Haiti National Team get the respect they deserve. They are amazing. They are strong. I wish everyone in the world knew this. How could I do something to make that happen? This too has crossed my mind along with the endless list of “why’s” over the past few years being a part of this team. The incredible part of today was that I figured out why I am here in Lafayette, IN right now. I was meant to meet these men. I was meant to meet people who are so passionate about helping that they couldn’t keep from coming here to see the team.

One of the men I was fortunate to meet is named Peterson Jerome, the other is Jean Pierre (no, I did not make a typo, Peterson has a last name as a first name and a first name as a last name…). Peterson came to America from Haiti when he was 17, went to school, then became a professional soccer player here. Wow. Right? Not only would that be tough because of uprooting yourself in every sense of the word, but because I hear English isn’t the easiest language to just pick up at 17 years old. But he prevailed. And now, today, he reminded me of a feelings I recently wrote about..lucky and blessed. I know this next phrase is really cliche and used way too much, but I really was at the right place at the right time. A very HUGE answer to a “why am I here” that I haven’t even asked yet. No doubt, I was meant to meet him. Possibly my new hero.

Now he is here in the states and is making a difference each and everyday. Here is his website http://www.haitiyouth.org/petersonjeromebio.htm. Please go see what this man is doing for youth today!

Today is gone and tomorrow we play Australia. I am extremely excited to put on Haiti colors and play next to my sisters, my family.

I can’t wait!

Haiti 2012 Adventure Blog #13

Last night was our final game. We played against Cuba, another struggling country. We have played them many times and have always had a great match. But last night, it was more than a great match, it was one that will go down in my books as one of the greatest wins Haiti has had that I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing.

The day started out as usual. We got up excited to get the job done. Little did we know, we had a huge surprise waiting for us put together by our liaison Kay Hussain. She managed to get two limos to agree to take the team around Vancouver for a site seeing day. The team was ecstatic. Music was playing, dancing was happening, and I could just feel us start our win right there and then. We had an amazing time together in those limos and Kay went above and beyond her job to do something for girls she met less than a week ago. Something special happens when people meet the Haiti Women’s National team. Connections are made and people, including the team, are inspired.

As for the game, it wasn’t just that the team scored three seriously beautiful goals (by Kimberly Boulos, Manoucheka Pierre Louis and Nadia Valentin) that made a lasting impression, it was the support we received from all who came to the game. There were fans from everywhere! Canada, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico….they were all there for the team in the form of signs, cheering, and tons of encouraging messages. Wow! And after the game, the support continued. An anonymous donor gave the team a dinner at a brilliant restaurant. Along with the gals who came the night before to give the team what they had fundraised, another young U-11 team (Pit Meadow’s Pride) surprised us. They presented us a card saying how inspired they were by the mentality of our team. They also raised money for the girls to thank them for showing them what determination in its finest form looks like. They wanted signatures and pictures and to be around women they now see as heroes and role models. And honestly, they are my heroes as well.

So, maybe we aren’t going to the Olympics, but that doesn’t mean we did not win. We won the hearts of people all over the world who saw strength in the Haitian culture amongst hardships. We won the chance to influence young minds and hearts to become people who can now see the need to help others and find a way to do it. We won a chance to show people who we are and that soccer can be more than just some sport people play to win, it can be an avenue to connect with others. We won a chance to make our family in Haiti proud. Kinda priceless if you ask me.

To all who have donated, no matter how you have, thank you. Thank you for taking second to see us. Thank you for letting us into your hearts and know that you are in ours forever. We’re looking forward for our next international opportunity. You’ll see us again soon enough.

Haiti 2012 Adventure Blog #12

Today was one of those days you remember how much people can care. We had the pleasure of meeting some amazing women with huge hearts today. Jen Wells and Jeana Hamilton, Michelle and their wonderful kids walked into the lives of the Haiti Women’s National team. They are part of the Vancouver United soccer club and now will forever be in the hearts of this team.

Two days ago, the U-11 through U-18 girls teams of the Vancouver United soccer club made a decision. They saw the spirit in the girls and were compelled to help. Jen Wells, the U-11 coordinator, sent out an email to coaches friends and families of her club, inviting them to watch a video of the girls that touched her heart, and asked them a question. Will you find it in your “…hearts to give to the Women’s National team of Haiti, a group of women our young girls will no doubt idolize.”

That’s amazing. What they ended up doing was setting up a donation spot on their photo day and asked the people of their club to help them raise money for the team. And oh boy did they. Not only did they raise money, they managed to collect equipment as well. Last night these gifts were presented to the team. I wish I could explain how the girls reacted. The spirit of the team was immediately lifted and dancing and singing commenced. It was priceless.

It’s amazing how soccer can bring so many people from different walks of life together. And there’s always one constant: Love and compassion for others.

The girls of Vancouver United and the people in the community directly impacted these women in a very positive way.  And for these girls to be able to know that they helped people, people they can see play tomorrow, people who are playing the same sport they are, people they can look up to….well, it’s something that may stick with them forever. As one of our captains put it (in English), “..this is unforgettable.”

So, people of Vancouver United, thank you from the team. You have blessed us and we will never forget it.

Haiti 2012 Adventure Blog #11

Haiti. What can you say about Haiti? A lot of people still see Haiti as a broken country. A lot of people still have an image of tent villages, crying children and lost people. I’m here to tell you I’ve personally seen so much more from this country.

Are there still tent villages? Yes. Are there still young people struggling? Yes. But broken? Definitely not. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know a piece of Haiti. I did not grow up knowing very much about Haiti. My grandmother wanted her kids to be American, which is common when people flee a country. And in a way I’m glad. I’m glad I got to know Haiti through the experiences with these girls. Tonight, we sweated together, fought together, and played for each other. Sometimes soccer is funny and the better team walks away with a loss. It’s not always fair, but that’s a part of the game. It’s a part of the game that’s always baffled me, but it’s not to say that I haven’t benefitted from it too.

It’s funny how life can be like that sometimes. It’s not always like the movies where the man wearing white wins and the one in black loses out of principle alone. Just like in everyday life, I guess in soccer we are left with a choice. Get out of the game or learn from those losses and strive for something better. For something that can inspire someone else. I hope that’s what this team has done for anyone who watched. I know they’ve done it for me. So, what’s next for Haiti? More. All I can say is more. Because every turn that doesn’t go our way makes us stronger and we will come back stronger than ever against Cuba. Can’t wait.

Haiti 2012 Adventure Blog #10

Teammates are a luxury I try not to take for granted. Have you ever had one of those days you can’t seem to stay positive? Maybe you woke up late and your whole day started in a panic. Maybe you went to start your car after shopping at the mall to find out you left your inside lights on and your battery is dead. Or maybe a friend or family member is in the hospital and you can’t stop thinking about them. Sometimes we have those days where things just aren’t sitting right, where we need outside help to remind us it’s all going to be ok.

I’ve spoken in these blogs about how I was sent to this team to try and make a few gals giggle. I was sent to help the coach breathe life back into these girls. Meanwhile, as I’ve sat here and told you how I’ve helped make them laugh, regardless if at or with me, these girls have been changing me. Today was one of those days for me like the ones I describe above. If you missed the game, you would’ve missed some pretty bad hits where people got seriously hurt. One of those people was the goal keeper I mentioned in a previous blog. The one who reminded us we are lucky to be here. The one who makes us feel like, no matter what goes on, she’s got our back. She was injured pretty bad. And worst of all, it happened in a collision with me. I was devastated.

While I was playing the “woe is me” game, hanging my head all day, I was missing something so amazing. My team was reuniting. My team was finding their spirit and I can see they aren’t seeing last night as a defeat anymore. Honestly, they aren’t seeing last night at all. They’re looking at tomorrow. The opportunity we still have. And on the bus to practice, it wasn’t me lifting them up, it was them lifting me up. The dancing is back. The singing is back. My team is back. Like I said, teammates are a luxury I’m learning never to take for granted. We aren’t done showing what we’ve got. Hope Costa Rica is ready!

Haiti 2012 Adventure Blog #9

There are a lot of things to learn from a soccer game, win or lose. Sometimes you learn how a teammate reacts in a certain situation. Sometimes you learn what happens when everything goes wrong, or even right. But every time you learn something about yourself. It could be how you yourself react when everything goes wrong. It could be that you’re a lot more brave than you give yourself credit for. No matter what, you’ll learn something.

Our team had a hard lesson today against Canada. We know we could’ve played better, that’s a given, but we are learning. We are learning how to deal with adversity on the field, with injuries, changes of personelle, and much more. It’s crazy how soccer is though. So many people approached us saying how they loved our style of play. And I know I’m bias, but I’d have to say so do I. We have more to show, we aren’t done here.

So, should we hang our heads and carry this game into the next match? No. We leave it on the field and start planning to beat Costa Rica. Tomorrow is a new day.

Haiti 2012 Adventure #8

Today kinda worried me a little bit. There was a lot of down time and the team was still recovering from our travel. It’s crazy how much that can impactan athlete’s routine and morale. A lot of the girls spent most of the day in bed, not excluding me. Traveling is rough on players for several reasons. From muscle fatigue, to a drastic change in schedule and time change, there’s a lot to adjust to.

So when training came along, at 8:30pm, we were all so zoned that there wasn’t that fire our team usually has. But have no fear, our goalkeeper is here. This keeper is one of the most intimidating players to play against I’ve ever met. Strong doesn’t even begin to explain it. This incredibly person came to meet the team here in Canada and last night gave a speech that definitely changed the attitude of the team. There are some people that when they speak, people listen.  Fortunately for us, our keeper is one of them. The team was exhausted last night, but after our speech, you could see the excitement in what’s to come start bubbling up in each of us.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how fortunate and blessed you are. I do it all the time. Sometimes we forget to cherish experiences while we are in the midst of them. That’s what our meeting was about. It was us needing to realize we are here. Now. The opportunity to change things in Haiti women’s soccer, not just for us, but for future of little girls in Haiti, is now. It’s here. How exciting is that??

So, tonight we sleep and dream of dribbling, shooting and scoring and making a splash in this tournament!! An ale Ayiti!!

Haiti 2012 Adventure Blog#7

Today was a bit of a long one. We started with a flight to Fort Lauderdale, took a bus to Miami, flew from there to Denver, and then off the Vancouver. Boy, it was a crazy time for the other American and me. Because we flew into the US, everything all day was in English. Great for us, not so great for a team who doesn’t speak it.

To be honest, regardless of how stressful it may have been at the time of check in, translating, and coordinating food and rides for the entire day, I’m quite proud of us. It could have been a tragedy, but everyone stayed calm and followed our directions to the “T.”

And we are finally here. Here in Vancouver where it will all be decided. Here where we can make history and we can show the world how Haiti is capable of playing. I’m putting aside all my worries about time change and temperature change and putting faith in the fact that these girls can overcome it all. Bring it Canada!

Haiti 2012 Adventure Blog #6

It’s so beautiful here. I sent a picture to a friend who said that the colors here are so vibrant. As I read it, I looked around and I couldn’t agree more. So much color, so much life.

Today was our last day here in Haiti. This has all gone by so fast, but I’ve been so happy to be here. We had practice today and at the end had to say good bye to one of the coaches, Coach Cherry, who isn’t coming with us. It bummed me out because he is so good for the team. But all he has done will pay off if we perform how I know we can in Canada. Afterwards, we had a press conference.

It’s always funny because the other Haitian American and I get interviewed constantly. We were both very worried that we would have to do these interviews in Creole. Lucky for us, one of our captains is brilliant and has been picking  up English faster than we have been picking up anything. I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned her yet. Her name is Fiorda Charles and she is one of the most gracious and hard working people I’ve ever met. I never hear her complain. I see her work for her team and can see that her determination runs deep. She was one of the first people I connected with on the team. We sat on an hour bus ride my first time and we taught each other every position on the field and a whole bunch of other soccer specific words. I forgot them seconds after she said them, but she retained everything I said. I wish I had the means to bring her to the States and send her to college. Hopefully I can find a way.

After our interview, all the girls got to go home and see their families before we left. A lot of them said their families were sad to see them leave, but I know that they are also proud and waiting in anticipation to see their daughters succeed. When they came back, they looked refreshed and ready for our adventure. It’s funny how after you haven’t seen your family in a while or are about to leave them for a while, that they can always bring a smile to your face. Usually the smile that either heals whatever things happened on your journey or a smile that comforts your fears right before you start one. So, today those girls were my family and they gave me smiles that refreshed me since mine is not here. And tomorrow, we leave Haiti for a chance to make Haiti history. Can’t wait!!