Seeing the daily images coming out of Haiti in the wake of the devastating 7.0 earthquake on January 12th, I ask myself numerous times how on earth will these suffering people possibly recover from the magnitude of the destruction? Surely we have seen few disasters in our lifetimes that can be placed on the same level as the loss of life and damage that this earthquake in Haiti has caused.
Football may not be the first thing on people’s minds when a catastrophic event likes this takes place and rightly so. However, football, can play a role when a nation is ready to rebuild after such a disaster.
I was able to speak with Haitian Football Federation President Dr. Yves Jean-Bart recently and he described in great detail the traumatic events of last month. Jean-Bart was in the FA headquarters at the time of the earthquake, meeting with other officials to discuss details for the participation of the U-17 Haiti Women’s Team in the upcoming CONCACAF Championship in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Football was not spared from the deadly consequences of this earthquake and 32 football officials from the Haitian FA lost their lives as the association’s headquarters were destroyed. Jean-Bart was himself injured from the building’s fallen debris but insisted that “compared to others that were injured and so many that passed away I feel blessed.”
Jean-Bart described the scenes in the aftermath of the earthquake as “total chaos.” Everything inside the FA headquarters was destroyed and the President says that many of his colleagues were trapped in the rubble for days.
Jean-Bart is certain that football can help unite the country at this terrible time and can help the rebuilding process by putting up new buildings and repairing affected stadiums and other infrastructure. With more than $3 million donated by FIFA and other financial contributions from sponsors and football associations around the world coming in, the process of rebuilding has already started.
All of Haiti’s national teams are still in line to compete in upcoming events ranging from the U-17 Women’s Team in the CONCACAF Championship to the Men’s Senior team’s participation in the Digicel Cup qualification, both in March.
Charity events in Venezuela and Germany featuring the Haitian National Team are also planned for late February and March in order to help raise funds for stadium repairs and other planned rebuilding projects.
“We are using this tragedy as a way to become stronger and become a signal of hope for the rest of the people in this country,” says Jean-Bart. It is an admirable response considering the state of the Haitian nation, both physically and psychologically.
Jean-Bart and his colleagues are showing that Haitians, despite all that they have been through in the past and with this terrible event, are a resilient people. A country who though it is suffering and have every reason to give up, are full of people who are aiming to rebuild for a better day. The obstacles may be numerous and might, however the will and desire of Jean-Bart and Haitian football is to be commended and hopefully replicated in other facets of the reconstruction of Haiti.
One Game, One World will continue to update you as this story evolves. For now, anyone wishing to make a monetary donation to help football in Haiti rebuild then please the visit the Haitian Football Federation’s website at http://www.fhfhaiti.com/index.php or email them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.