The Journey of Amputee Soccer in Haiti
WORLD CUP OF AMPUTEE SOCCER TIMETABLE
by Fred Sorrells, PhD
The devastating earthquake happened on January 12, 2010. It was the most destructive natural disaster ever experienced in Haiti, already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Roughly 250,000 people died, and over 300,000 people were injured. Many thousands suffered limb amputations and became isolated pariahs in their communities through no fault of their own.
I had been working in Haiti since 2004, so I had a grasp of the culture and adapted sports scene from my involvement with 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008 Paralympic Games.
The vast number of earthquake victims with amputations provoked my interest in sports incorporating those with limb impairments. I discovered amputee soccer in the spring of 2010. With the help of my Haitian counterparts, we were able to form the Haiti Amputee Soccer Association. We got recognized by the Haitian government and the World Amputee Football Federation. I served as the Team Manager and Director of Operations for its first international event – 2010 Crispo, Argentina World Cup of Amputee Football. While the Haitian team did not win any games, they were competitive and a home crowd favorite.
Comments: It was a significant achievement to clear all the administrative hurdles, obtain Passports and Visas, train and select a national team, and participate in the World Cup nine months after the earthquake. There was no budget for these activities, but the Lord provided at the end of the day.
And perhaps most interesting was Haiti managed to participate following the devastating earthquake, and the USA did not!!
Upon our return to Texas en route to Haiti, the players received medical and dental care. Francillon Chery received a much-needed amputation at Baylor Medical University Medical Center in Dallas, and Hanger Prosthetics donated an above-the-knee prosthesis. During the rehabilitation process, I discovered that Francillon was an accomplished acrylic and metallic artist. On April 11, 2011, he returned to Haiti and currently serves as the Haiti Amputee Football Association president.
Following the participation in the 2010 World Cup, efforts to recruit and train more players accelerated.
The national selection participated in the 2014 Culican, Mexico World Cup of Amputee Soccer. The FIFA World Cup of able-bodied soccer was recently won by Germany that year. Consequently, the German amputee soccer team was highly trained and motivated to win their World Cup. Team Haiti, unfortunately, drew Team Germany for their first match. Miraculously, Team Haiti defeated Germany 2:0! They then defeated Kenya 2:0 to advance to the playoff bracket. Amputee soccer founder Don Bennett has described their first playoff game against Italy as one of the greatest games ever played. The score was tied at the end of regulation and remained tied through two overtime periods and penalty shots. On the fourth sudden-death penalty shot, Haiti scored!!!!!!!!!!! 4:3 Haiti over Italy. They lost their quarter-final game to Turkey 3:0 to finish #5 in the World.
Comments: Team Haiti played while using world-famous Peace Crutch Tips designed and manufactured by crutch wearer and world humanitarian Thomas Fetterman. Moreover, the Haitian team transported hundreds of pairs of Peace Tips and gifted them to the participating delegations. Kenya was highly grateful for this unexpected donation, and Coach Willis Odhiambo offered a very moving testimonial. Following the 2014 World Cup, the players stayed in Texas for several weeks. Beneficient families provided room and board to the undernourished team, bulking them up by preparing three large home-cooked meals a day. They also received medical and dental care and participated in friendly soccer matches in various cities to create more interest in amputee soccer and support efforts to strengthen the US national amputee soccer program.
The Haiti national amputee soccer team participated in the 2015 and 2017 Cup of the Americas, which allowed younger players to be detected and gain international playing experience. The national selection participated in the 2018 San Juan de Los Lago, Mexico World Cup of Amputee Soccer. The team defeated Ukraine 2:1 and Angola 2:1 to advance to the playoff bracket. Haiti lost a close game to Poland 2:1 and finished #9 in the World. They were the only team to defeat World Champion Angola during the competition.
Comments: Haitian striker Ronaldo Richard was awarded the Golden Foot Award for the most goals scored during the 2018 World Cup. Once again, the Haitian team played on the world-famous Peace CrutchTips. The Haitian team again transported hundreds of pairs of Peace Tips in their luggage to give the participating delegations.
For their first time out of Haiti, I took the newly formed Haitian National Women's Amputee Soccer Team on an international tour of Mexico. Members of both groups received dental and prosthetic care during their stay in Texas. Because of financial constraints, I made five round trips in a 15 passenger van from Texas to Miami, transporting the men and women's teams covering over 20,000 miles.
Just before the Covid-19 outbreak, the first women's international amputee soccer games were held in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, featuring both countries' national women's teams.
Haiti held the game on March 8, International Women's Day. Team Haiti continued to get stronger and won their match 2:0. Over 3 million people viewed the game on social media.
Summary: Cameroon, Central Africa, young women saw the 2020 International Women's Day game between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. They indicated an interest in having a similar event in 2021. I visited Cameroon in November 2020 and March 2021 to assist with staging the first International Women's Day amputee soccer game in Africa. Plans call for doing something similar in Sierre Leonne, West Africa, next year. Cameroon, Dominican Republic, and Haiti women's amputee soccer games have launched the initial efforts to stage the first Women's World Cup of Amputee Soccer.
Now, several countries have youth and women's teams, and I am working to establish programs all over the World.
Hopefully, the first Women's World Cup of Amputee Soccer will be in 2023!
The next World Cup of Amputee Soccer will be in Turkey in October 2022. Haiti hopes to participate, but it's hard to drive there!! Anyone wishing to support the Haitian team's effort to participate is welcome to contact me. And YES, we are prepared to take Peace Tips once again!!!
CHALLENGE: There is a tremendous need for soccer gear for the youth, women, and men's programs around the World. Life is especially tough for most people with disabilities in emerging nations. Securing soccer gear is definitely out of reach for most of them. Your efforts to secure and repurpose soccer gear will bring hope to so many with limb impairments. Plus, know that a pair of cleats or keeper gloves will help two people play the beautiful game of amputee soccer!!
Dr. Fred Sorrells: Commissioner for Youth and Women Amputee Soccer - North America, Central American and the Caribbean; Manager and Director of Operations – Haiti National Women's and Men's Teams