Since returning to Haiti in April, I’ve gotten to know several members of the Haitian national under-17 women’s soccer team. They attempted to teach me a few moves (sternly coaching me on the basics of reception and transmission) and then told me, sweetly, “You’re really good! You just need to learn to control the ball!” after I kicked the ball into their faces and nearly took out a clothesline. One rainy afternoon, as we watched a movie and ate powdered milk with spoons, Hayana, their extraordinary team captain, took my notebook and wrote the story of the challenges and stigma she faced, and how she came to play soccer on the national team.
Some accounts of the team’s loss to the US in the CONCACAF under-17 championships in March depict it as a tragedy, the end of a dream, the loss of a chance of escape. Like many of her teammates, Hayana lost her home in the January 12 earthquake, and is now living with her family at an aunt’s house. Her teammate, goalkeeper Madeline, whose mother, father, and sister died in Léogane on January 12, has moved in with her. Madeline remains very damaged by what happened, but she still takes out and looks at the certificate they gave her in Costa Rica when the team traveled to compete against the U.S. in March, where she sat on the sidelines and watched, unable to play. Their teammates Rosemonde and Gerthrude have gone back to their homes in Cité Soleil.
In the afternoons and evenings, all the girls still play soccer, at organized practice at the stadium, and barefoot in the streets with their friends (particularly young boys who come to admire these girls who can trounce them).
Hayana begins, in Creole:
Hi Laura, we’ve been talking about all kinds of things and we’ve talked a lot about soccer. Now you’ve met a bunch of girls who know how to play soccer. We would really like to teach you to play, but now it’s too late and it’s raining. I think that all the girls like you, we like that you joke with us and you like to play. I’m happy that God protected you [during the earthquake] so that we could become friends. I am happy to write this story for you. Every time you read it you will think about your little friend Hayana. I would like God to protect us so we can remain friends to the end, and I would like to thank God because after the earthquake he took care of me. He didn’t only save my life, He made me a decent person. I will ask God for more strength in my studies, because I love school. My goal is to finish school so I can learn something in my life, because school is the only means to get anywhere in life.
Here, she switches to French.
My soccer story:
I remember when I was thirteen, my mother didn’t want me to play soccer. She would beat me. But I didn’t get discouraged because I love soccer. Everything she did to me meant nothing because le foot is my passion, the thing I love. Apart from school, it is soccer that interests me most.
I have an older brother named Stanley who loves me very much, and when he would take me to school I would take my backpack with my two notebooks and my pen, and I would sneak my athletic clothes in, too. But I never trained formally. Then
one morning when I was playing soccer in the street with my brother, I noticed that someone had stopped to watch me play. He was one of the supervisors of the national under-15 women’s selection. He asked me a lot of questions about my family, saying that he wanted to talk to my mother about my going to the Ranch Croix de Bouquets for the national selection. My mother didn’t want me to. So I packed up all my things and left. Only my brother knew I had gone to the Ranch. Of the 40 players there, they chose 18. I was one of the winners. When my mother learned I was part of the under-15 selection, she was astonished. I got to travel to Trinidad. When I called her on the phone, she was happy to hear the voice of her little girl who was in Trinidad. In the beginning she didn’t want any of this, and now she’s the one who makes sure I go to practice. Thanks, Laura, for having read my story, my friend. [In English now] I THINK WITH YOU.