Members of Port-au-Prince-based Haitian club Violette AC have gathered at least once a week in hotels and players’ homes for the past 10 months to sit in circles and listen.
What is being said is not always loud, and very often has nothing to do with football. enough. On the brink of a “humanitarian disaster”. Haiti has dealt with escalating violence, especially among gang-led organizations. In July 2021, he announced that since President Jovenel Moïse was murdered, tensions have only increased. Violence has forced Doctors Without Borders to close hospitals in the capital.
So far, a little-known group of Violette players in football have found ways to rely on each other, at least on the field. In one of his most shocking results in recent CONCACAF Champions League history, Violette kicked off the regional tournament with his 3-0 upset against Austin FC last week. $15 million — his 12th highest in the league.
The game, which was supposed to be Violette’s home game, was played in the Dominican Republic because of the violence in Haiti. For the return leg, the club travels to the Texas state capital for Tuesday night’s game in a very different setting at Q2 Stadium. At least four goals are needed for Austin to beat Violette and prevent the Haitian team from advancing to the quarterfinals of the competition.
Haitian players admitted that due to ongoing problems in Haiti, not all members of the team were granted visas to enter the United States. This is not the first time it has made an impact. Last year, Leogane’s Cavalry FC had to withdraw from New England against his Revolution after failing to secure enough visas for a traveling party.
It’s also not the first time an MLS team has been embarrassed in a Champions League away match. In 2022, 2021 Western Conference champion Colorado his Rapids lost in the first leg of round 16 to Guatemala’s Communicaciones FC, but won on penalties at home. In the 2019 Champions League Round of 16, Costa Rica’s Herediano beat Atlanta United 3-1 and Panama’s Independiente beat Toronto FC 4-0. Atlanta will recover and win the series, but Toronto will not. That end result could be an inspiration for Violet.
It’s not clear how many players will be available on Tuesday, but a source familiar with the situation said: athletic 15 players have obtained visas and a few more are still being processed. The source was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Reports from Austin indicate that due to visa issues, Violette has called for temporary US signings to form a full squad to defend a 3-0 advantage in the first leg tomorrow.
maybe someone @Conca Cafe Maybe shed some light at some point? https://t.co/6023ssuQIG
— Charles Boehm (@cboehm) March 13, 2023
On the other hand, CONCACAF said, “We have received assurances from AC Violette that the club has obtained more than the required number of visas for top team players to travel and compete.”
“Some of the players who were unable to obtain visas TRUE It’s important for us,” said midfielder Shad San Milan. “Even if we have to go with just 12 players, we’re going to put our hearts into the game.”
According to the team, whispers about the Haitian player defecting after arriving in the United States should be left alone.
“We are all working together on this issue,” said captain Stephen Saba. “We are only here to play soccer.”
No one on the Violette team can escape the devastation of Haiti. It is common for friends and family to be forced out of their homes. So rather than rushing home as soon as their training obligations are over, Violette players stay close to each other.
Saba hesitates to call it team discussion therapy, but the floor is open for players to share their thoughts.
“To find out how someone feels, are they in pain in any way? We want to be there to help them,” Sabah said. athletic.
Violette represent not only Haiti, but the entire Caribbean in the CONCACAF Champions League and are the only team to qualify for the Round of 16. They should be “family,” he said Saba. Their goal isn’t just to compete on a makeshift field that doesn’t look like a pristine stadium like his Q2 stadium in Austin playing Tuesday. Their goal is to be “here for each other”.
“Indeed, Haiti has many problems and it does not give us any advantage,” Saint-Milan said. “But we’ve always said we can compete with the best in the world.”
This is the story of what it takes.
As Violette boarded the bus across the Haitian border to the Dominican Republic, the players realized what odds they were given to beat Austin FC. Civil turmoil prevented them from playing the first leg of the home and away aggregation series in Haiti, forcing Bus instead to host the game at the Estadio his Cibao, eight hours away. one of the goals.
Find out everything there is to know about this giant tree behind Violette’s goal at Estadio Cibao in the Dominican Republic. pic.twitter.com/ttMwBEhn1Z
— Joseph Lowery (@joeclowery) March 7, 2023
From the beginning, it felt like a game that Austin, with its experienced MLS players, should have won in a landslide.
But with no other competitive matches scheduled in the months leading up to the game, the messages from Violette’s coaching staff were uniform. had Be aggressive. An opportunity like the one in front of you will never come again. They believed that if he did not try to impose his will on Austin with consistent energy, he would disappoint his family and friends across the Haitian border.
“Haitians are happy whenever they hear good news about football in Haiti,” said San Milan. “It’s our privilege to make them happy.”
The violence plaguing Haiti means that Ligue 1 has not had a full season since 2021. Violette became the champion that season and qualified for the 2022 Caribbean Club Championship. In his nine-day tournament in May 2022, Violette achieved multiple come-from-behind victories before winning the tournament on penalties.
The final took place on May 22, 2022. This was the last game they played, and they had 290 days from their last game to win over Austin. Austin FC played his 25th game in the same stretch.
Technically, Violette players are professionals. But according to his 2021 estimates from the United Nations, he needs a side job in a country with a per capita GDP of $1,664. That number is the lowest of any country in the Americas. Captain Saba works at a hardware store that has been owned by her family for two generations. And when San Her Milan comes home from training, she hits her book. Champions League game or not, the 18-year-old is still a few credits short of his high school diploma requirements.
“My mother is a teacher and is very strict with school,” said San Milan.
Having waited nearly 300 days without playing since qualifying in May 2022 and watching the home run increasingly uncertain, the opportunity to change the perception of Haiti’s football , which they welcomed with eager anticipation.
“That’s literally our life,” said Sabah. “You don’t have to stop believing.”
The team learned that it’s best to train in the morning and never train in the evening, even if it’s muggy. Asking them to move in the dark is a threat to their safety.
Sometimes training sessions were cut short due to rioting nearby.
“The streets will be chaotic and you will have to flee home,” San Milan said. “I always prayed for my teammates to go home after training.”
Team meetings intensified as the match against Austin approached. At first there was concern from every corner of the dressing room that the team was embarrassed.
Those feelings lasted a very long time. They have remained positive throughout the past few years in Haiti and through such turmoil.
San Milan admitted that while regular league games may have improved the team physically, it was the constant discussions the team had about the future that benefited them mentally. .
“Everyone was pushing each other as well as being positive,” San Milan said.
As a veteran member of the Haiti national team, Sabah has seen firsthand the power of positive confidence. Sabah was on the field when Haiti came back from his 2-0 loss and upset the talented Canadian national team in the 2019 Gold Cup quarter-finals. A few days after that, Saba was on the field when the region’s giants, Mexico, needed a 93.rdFinally beat Haiti – minute penalty.
So even minutes before the team stepped onto the field against Austin, his message to the team was consistent.
“The ball is round for everyone, experienced or not,” Sabah said.
On the day of the game, Violette’s players took to the field and looked out into the stands to see dozens of people watching at most.
“Of course, those who are suffering are very proud of us,” San Milan said.
They thought of their families when Violette striker Mishu Nader Sherry scored past Austin centre-back Amuro Tarek, scoring the first goal of the competition in just 13 minutes.
They came to Austin in waves and were thinking of their friends. Just 26 minutes after her first goal, the mountain towering in front of her looked climbable when Chery again jumped at an inexplicable height to score her second goal.
Waiting nearly 300 days means it didn’t slow down even after halfway through. Chery nearly completed her trick with a header on her 47 a hat.th A minute first saved by Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuber before Tarek fumbled a clear attempt and kicked the ball into the net.
Chery buried her head in the ground in disbelief. Violet hoped to bring Austin’s team, who were more experienced and highly paid, into submission. A few yards away, Saba shared that disbelief, but only for a moment.
“Somehow, somehow, we are always ready for whatever comes,” said Sabah.
The Violette players hugged each other in the middle of the pitch and smiled. As they made their way back to the locker room, coach Ronnie Attimy swept the team into a surge of emotion with one message that still rings in Sabah’s ears days later.
Violette players want people in the spotlight now to know when they play the return leg across the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday. Haiti is more than the headline suggests.
“I’ve said too long. Haiti has a lot of talent,” said Sabah. “But because of the way this country works, we are not recognized.”
So before the game begins, Violette gathers in a circle again to remind each other what they, and possibly the whole country, can do.
“It’s bigger than football for us,” Sabah said. “We are fighting for the whole country.”