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Long And Winding Road Trip With its country in turmoil, Haiti's soccer team tries to stay in the game

March 22, 2004
March 22, 2004

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March 22, 2004

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Long And Winding Road Trip With its country in turmoil, Haiti's soccer team tries to stay in the game

Edited by Mark Bechtel and Sridhar Pappu

After Danny Califf scored the tying goal four minutes into
second-half stoppage time, giving the U.S. a 1-1 draw with Haiti
last Saturday night, Haiti coach Fernando Clavijo was perturbed
but resigned to the fact that so much time (five minutes) had
been tacked on to the end of the game. "We have to be prepared to
face adversity," said Clavijo, "and that includes the referee."
Adversity is all his team has known for months. Clavijo, who
played for the U.S. in the 1994 World Cup, took control of
Haiti's program in October. Because he wanted the team to live
and train together in the best possible facilities as they tried
to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, he brought them to Miami.
Things were rosy for a month or so. Then, as the government of
Jean-Bertrand Ariste began to crumble, the money stopped coming
from Haiti.

This is an article from the March 22, 2004 issue Original Layout

A Haitian airline was going to sponsor the team, but the
political turmoil crippled its business. Clavijo, 48, began
working gratis--he hasn't been paid in months--and paying bills
himself. A local business has stepped in to provide three homes
for the 32 players and staff members and some cash for them to
send home, but Clavijo is still picking up expenses. When they're
not practicing in public parks--they can't afford to rent a
practice facility--Clavijo's players spend hours phoning home.
Just before the team's Feb. 21 World Cup qualifying game against
the Turks and Caicos Islands, Peter Germain learned his family's
house had burned to the ground. Undaunted, Germain and his
teammates won 2-0. In their next game, Saturday night's friendly,
they comprehensively outplayed a U.S. team that's 11th in the
world--83 spots ahead of Haiti.

A day earlier Clavijo had expressed concern that a win over the
U.S. might draw attention from the dire situation his players and
their families face. "A victory against the U.S. might send the
wrong message," he said. "'Oh, we are O.K, we don't need to do
anything more than we have.' And that's not correct. It's not the
truth." But judging from his smile after Alexander Boucicot's
69th-minute goal put Haiti up 1-0, Clavijo didn't look like a man
who'd be too bothered by a win.

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: LUIS M. ALVAREZ/AP (2) STILL KICKING Despite distractions, Clavijo (left) and his teamare still alive for a World Cup berth.