Beneath the arches of the colosseum, a mass of swaying blue stood in anticipation. When the Haitian National Anthem started playing out of the speakers, the crowd, dotted with crimson, grew silent out of respect. It was one of the first clear Sundays of spring: when Haiti came to Harvard.
Everywhere, the colors were red and blue. There was a live concert, pre-game barbecue, and free t-shirts. Vendors sold Haitian flags.
All this was part of Haiti Lève, or Haiti Stand Up, a fundraiser to help rebuild Haiti, still recovering from the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that crippled the country last year. The proceeds from the tickets, which cost $10 for everyone but Harvard students, plus donations and sales from food covered the expenses of the team’s transportation. The remaining profit went to Partners In Health, which is working to rehabilitate Haiti.
For the men’s soccer team, playing international teams is nothing out of the ordinary. The NCAA and Ivy League limit the number of games that college teams can play in the off-season, but international games don’t count toward this tally. After hearing that the Haitian national team had already toured in other parts of the country, Head Coach Carl L. Junot invited them to Boston. “This year in planning, we thought we’d do something special,” he says. “There’s a huge potential to play an exciting event with a large draw.”
For Junot, playing Haiti was important: “We had the opportunity to play a higher level match while also fulfill[ing] the responsibility of social responsibility and community service,” he says.
SHIFTING THE GOALPOSTS
“It all started with a phone call,” Junot explains. He called the Football Federation of Haiti (FHF), and was directed to call Robert Jean-Bart, the Federation president’s son, who lives in Boston and works as FHF’s marketing coordinator.
“We thought [the fundraiser] would be a good way for us to use the power of soccer to work to help Haiti,” Jean-Bart says. Together, he and Junot made the game happen.
Before the match, Robert J. Millock ’11, last season’s co-captain of the Harvard team, said, “Winning would be great, but it’s important to separate the event from the actual game.” Raising funds, he said, is what matters.
Carole E. Bergin, a preceptor in French and adviser to the Harvard-Haitian Alliance who is also heavily involved in the Haitian community in Dorchester, thinks the game was not just an important fundraising opportunity but also a good way to connect the Harvard and Haitian communities.
“I want the kids from Dorchester to see through HHA that there are models, that there are Haitian students at Harvard,” she says. Bergin even picked up some of the Haitian children before Sunday’s soccer game so they could attend.
“I feel like a lot of what people think about Haiti is negative. People are ignorant about its history and people,” says Natalie E. McBride ’13, who is half-Haitian and a co-president of the HHA. “I think they will benefit from seeing a very positive side of the country, by going to an event that is celebratory and unifying.”
The game on Sunday ended with a 4-1 win on penalty kicks for Haiti, after the game had ended scoreless. Even after the final shot, a goal by Haiti’s Jean Baptiste, the 11,513 fans in the stands continued playing music and waving their Haitian flags.
Children raced each other across the stands in excitement, indifferent to the score as they explored the stadium. Eventually they returned to their parents and the crowd meandered out. “Our paths will cross again,” Junot said. “We’ll be able to support each other again. Maybe one day [Haiti] will host us there.”
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