At the conclusion of the first scrimmage of the 2012 season for the University of Dayton women’s soccer team, for maybe only this one time, the final score was not the most important thing.
On Jan. 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the small Caribbean country of Haiti, with an epicenter just 25 miles from its capital city, Port-au-Prince. In what was one of the deadliest earthquakes of all time, 316,000 people were killed, and thousands of residences and buildings were destroyed. Included in these casualties were 32 members of the country’s soccer federation after their headquarters collapsed during the powerful earthquake.
The resulting damage left countless numbers of people homeless and looking for shelter, which many found at Sylvio Castor stadium, Haiti’s home for national soccer. For a while, Haiti’s most popular sport would have to be put on hold, as the country struggled to rebuild from the rubble.
However, slowly but surely, the Haitian Football Federation, much like the country it represents, rose again, and began to revitalize its people. Thanks in large part to donations from its governing body, the Federation Internationale de Football Association, the Haiti U-17 women’s team competed in a qualifying tournament for the World Cup just two months after the disaster.
Now just over two years since the disaster, Haiti has still not fully recovered. According to a survey by Oxfam, which is an international organization working to find a solution to poverty and injustice, over half a million Haitians still remain homeless, and much of the country’s infrastructure has still not been built. Also, the HFF hasn’t replaced any of the personnel they lost in the quake and works with a reduced staff.
None of this has halted the Haitians however from playing their beloved sport. As its website states, “Soccer is a passion and a stimulant that brings the joy of life and hope to all Haitians, regardless of their age, their sex, and their economical social statute,” and so they played on.
Most recently, the Haitian Women’s National team participated in the qualifying tournament Jan. 19-29 for the London 2012 Olympic Games. The team finished 1-2, defeating Cuba 3-0 in its lone win.
This summer, the team has been doing a summer tour of the United States, playing in scrimmages while raising awareness of the continuing struggles of their people back home. This is how University of Dayton women’s soccer assistant coach Tiffany Hansen noticed the team.
“I was working at a camp at [the University of] Notre Dame,” Hansen said, “and heard that they were in the States looking for games against good teams, and I thought it would be a good challenge to see what were made of against a good, physical team.”
According to UD head coach Mike Tucker, the game was scheduled in place of a scrimmage that was to be played against Butler University, but was canceled because of Butler joining the Atlantic 10 Conference this upcoming season.
The game itself, which was played Aug. 4, finished 4-1 in favor of the Flyers. Junior midfielder Stephanie Emery led the team with one goal and one assist. Also contributing goals were freshman forward Katie Krejsa, junior midfielder Juliana Libertin and freshman midfielder Ashley Campbell.
This game wasn’t as much about the final score though, as it was more about the overall experience. According to senior forward Colleen Williams, it was “an honor” to play against the Haitian National team.
“The whole thing was cool,” Williams said. “We were able to exchange T-shirts and banners, and it was interesting to see their style of play. The Caribbean style is very different. It’s very physical, but with no trash talking and no fights break out. That’s just their style of play.”
Due to the scrimmage being set up last minute, UD was not able to organize any kind of collection or benefit for earthquake relief. However, all of the team’s expenses were paid for by the university, and according to coach Tucker, the team is hoping to have a benefit night for those affected sometime this season.
As for the Haitian National team, they continue to play on representing their country and serving as an inspiration to a nation struggling to rebuild. According to its website, “they serve as motors that will carry a certain increase into the self-esteem and also confidence in themselves of young women of Haiti.”
The team not only serves as a reminder for people to not forget the troubling past but also as a hope for a brighter future.