Posted: 7/18/2009
Title: HAITIAN FOOTBALL ,VOODOO & TONTONS MACOUTES

Blog:                                                                                                                         

          FIFA World Cup West Germany 1974. We were in the Olympiastadion in Munich for a first round match, Italy v Haiti and what a surprise opening goal by the Caribbeans over the Azurri. 'Manno' Sannon scored in the 46th minute-the first goal on Dino Zoff in 12 games!! It was short lived, and Italy prevailed 3-1 with goals from Rivera, Benetti and Anastasi, and they lost all three matches and Haiti returned home from their one and only World Cup adventure.

         Three years later I find myself by the pool of a hotel in Port-au-Prince for a World Cup elimination match and chatting with a new Haitian coach from West Germany. I was doing a radio report and was fascinated by this island nation, one of the poorest in the world, and haunted by the regimes of Papa Doc Duvalier and his son Baby Doc. Back in the 19th Century they were the first black country to overthrow their white slave masters and establish a republic. The Duvaliers even changed the colour of the national flag and the national team uniform from Red and Blue to Red and Black, voodoo colours to intimidate the population.

        In 1950 USA beat England 1-0 in Belo Horizonte Brazil, probably the greatest upset in World Cup history. The goalscorer was a Haitian national, Joe Gaetjens, with a Belgian father and Haitian mother. He was playing for New York Brookhatten while studying on a scholarship at Columbia University in NYC. Under US Soccer rules at the time, he declared his intention of seeking US citizenship and was selected by coach William 'Bill' Jefferies.  He played 3 times for USA, returned to Haiti without changing his citizenship, after a brief spell with Troyes of France, played once for Haiti in 1953 and was later picked up by the hated Tontons Macoutes police and disappeared, and without a body showing up, pronounced dead in 1984. He was honoured by the US National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1976.

       The Game of Their Lives, a movie account of the USA 1950 World Cup team, was released on DVD in 2005. Joe was played by Jimmy-Jean Louis. There was also an off Broadway play about him.

       While in Haiti I was driven up into the mountains which were denuded of trees which had all been cut down by the locals in search of fuel, resulting in avalanches and flooding. We went to a rum factory and lots of free tasting of different rum flavour; orange, coconut, lime, peppermint, chocolate, strawberry etc.  In the national stadium Silvio Cator, named after a former Olympian. I reported on a play-off for Argentina '78 between Canada and USA which the Cannucks won. I was fascinated by some of the local politicians and journalists that I met, something out of a Graham Greene novel, and by the wonderful art at the downtown market.

       Haiti are now competing in the 2009 CONCACAF GOLD CUP, and surprised USA by almost winning an opening round match before it ended in a 2-2 tie with an added time goal from Stuart Holden of the Houston Dynamo, and they took their place in the play-offs and play Mexico in a double header at the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington,TX on 19th July.

   

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