The New York Times just published a nice profile of Jozy Altidore — thanks to my friends at Duke’s FHI for a tweet about this! — and, despite the fact that I know seeking historical and social redemption in football matches is a dangerous game, I can’t help dreaming that this summer will bring us a little echo of 1950. In that year, Joe Gaetjens — a Haitian national recruited onto the U.S. team, in the days when FIFA was a rather easy-going about citizenship requirements — brought the U.S. perhaps it’s greatest footballing victory, a story told a few weeks back in a nice Sports Illustrated story, when he scored a goal against the English team.
No one needs a bit of redemption right now more than Haiti. But with the exception of their exciting run in the 1974 World Cup, featuring Emmanuel Sannon’s legendary goal against Italy, Haiti has mostly had to satisfy itself with proxies in the tournament. (For many in Haiti, it’s Brazil, for others Argentina, and for a very few, France). They had Gaetjens in 1950, and in 2006 Wyclef Jean nicely brought Haiti to the World Cup final by showing up, for his opening duet with Shakira, decked out with several Haitian flags decorating his outfit.
It’s too romantic I know, but what’s the point of football if not to let us dream up plots on the turf too elegant too beautiful to take place anywhere else? When the U.S. faces England, I’ll be rooting for Altidore, for Haiti and the U.S. at the same time. He showed us what he is capable against Spain in the Confederations Cup last year. He teased Beckham, the New York Times tells us, that the U.S. will win 3-0 against English. I’m going to call, more modestly, on the cosmic powers that oversee football for 1-0 against England, with Altidore scoring the winning goal, just for the sake of historical poetry.