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Soccer-for-peace hacked to pieces

The exterior of St. Bernadette soccer field in Gran Ravin-Martissant, the site of the 20 August massacre. (Haiti Information Project)
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 24 September 2005 | Soccer has smoothed relations between United Nations peacekeepers and slum-dwellers in the capital. Naturally, since Brazil has contributed 1,200 troops (see entry for 25 July 2004), football seems a perfect ally in trying to gain confidence from loyalists to exiled president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (Alfred de Montesquiou, "Soldiers Use Soccer to Win Over Haitians," Associated Press, 29 August). The U.S. Agency for International Development, picking up on the soccer-as-ambassador idea, sponsored a "Play for Peace" match on 20 August and, tragically, discovered the risk of amassing some 6,000 people in a trigger-happy, politically unstable and poverty-stricken zone. In a terse account from the Haiti Information Project—a Berkeley-based advocacy and information collective—events are recounted:

As fans were being entertained during one of the breaks in the soccer game—highly attended because national league players had joined the local teams—a group of police and men wearing red tee shirts and head bands entered the playing field and took over the microphone from the announcer. The people in the crowd at first thought that this was a friendly show of security by the police. But that idea was immediately dashed when the red shirt announcer stopped the music being played by the DJ and then demanded everyone to lay on the ground. A shot was fired into the air and people began a panicked response. Some tried to run away, some tried scaling the walls to escape and several of these were shot. Others tried running into the adjoining rooms of the stadium and later were found hacked to death. (Tom Luce with AUMOHD investigators, "5,000 Soccer Fans in Haiti Witness Machete and Hatchet Massacre . . . ," 26 August)

Luckner Innocent said his nephew, with whom he had attended the match, was shot six times in the stomach and hacked with a machete. (Reed Lindsay | Newsday)

A freelance report for Newsday said eight—and possibly more—had been killed by criminals recruited by Haitian police to seek activists in Aristide's Lavalas party (Reed Lindsay,'Play for Peace' Soccer Match Turns into Massacre," 28 August). "Lavalas" is Creole for "torrent" or flood." "These killings set a dangerous precedent," said Anne Sosin, a human-rights observer for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. "How can you explain police accompanied by individuals armed with machetes massacring spectators at a soccer match with UN troops standing by literally across the street?" The same "red shirts," according to witnesses, entered the Martissant neighborhood the following day and burned four houses alleged to house Lavalas supporters.

'I know soccer can bring good'

West Palm Beach, Fla., and Merger, Haiti, 9 June 2005 | Deadly loyalties infecting top-flight football in Haiti come to light through the story of Fabrice Noel,

A boy and a ball: Growing up, Noel played soccer with T-shirts, grapefruits and balloons. (Palm Beach Post)
a 19-year-old Colorado Rapids signee who managed to escape the system (Jill Barton, "Haitian Pins Family's Fate to Soccer," Associated Press, 5 June). Noel sought political asylum after his two older brothers, Luckner and Kenson, were murdered in 2002. The killers had been seeking Fabrice, allegedly due to his loyalty to Racing Club Haitien over the rival Violette AC side backed by a neighbor. "According to Noel's five-page statement written when he was seeking political asylum . . . several Violette players were active in politics, a combustible sideshow Noel did not want to be a part of" (Brian Forbes, "Soccer His Future, after Grim Past," Denver Post, 2 June). He was taken in by family friends in South Florida on a tour with a Haitian youth team and appeared for soccer tryouts at Palm Beach Lakes Community High School wearing brown loafers. Earlier this year he was spotted by Rapids and former Haitian national-team coach Fernando Clavijo—on Wednesday elected to the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame. At a school assembly on 17 May, Noel was honored by Florida Dairy Farmers as the best player in the state; teammates proposed a milk toast. "Some people know about me," Noel said, "but they didn't really know my face. Today, they know my face" (Lindsay Jones, "Lakes' Noel Gets Ready to Begin Pro Career," Palm Beach Post, 18 May).

LIMA, PERU, 25 JULY 2004
Catching Up, Part I: Latin America
A post–Euro 2004 hiatus has left The Global Game with reams of paper atop its blonded desk, representing a backlog of news items and deferred observations. Sadly, we have neglected Copa América, which finished today with Brazil's victory in penalty kicks over Argentina. In 88 meetings, Brazil has won 34 times, Argentina 33, with 21 draws. Copa América is the oldest continental football tournament,

Haitians love the Brazilian team, as they demonstrate following a victory in the 2002 World Cup finals. (AP)
the first official event dating to 1917, but the tournament's reputation has slipped over the years, and Brazil this year fielded its "B" side (though stars Edu and Kleberson and the others are hardly "B"-list players). Each tournament we are impressed by Brazil's global appeal and by the players' status as ambassadors. Brazil president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has offered to escort the senior side (Ronaldo and Ronaldinho on board this time) to Port-au-Prince on 18 August for a friendly against Haiti. The match, which is appearing less likely now due to security concerns, would serve as an extension of Brazil's commitment to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), to which Brazil has contributed 1,200 troops. The Brazilians have already brought 1,000 soccer balls and kit. Admission to the friendly was to have been granted by an exchange of weapons the previous week, but "that proposal was abandoned after diplomats realized it would probably stimulate trafficking in guns and enrage Haitians by giving preferential treatment to armed gang members" (Larry Rohter, "Brazil Is Leading a Largely South American Mission to Haiti," New York Times, 1 August).

As for Copa América, and some of the sides involved, hosts Peru advanced to the quarterfinals, losing to Argentina. Peru last hosted the competition in 1957, and the 2004 edition marked something of a turning point following some 20 years of armed resistance led by Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and Tupac Amaru guerrillas. (See also the website of Peru's Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación and of the related photo exhibition, "Yuyanapaq: Para recordar.") This year's event was spiced by a one-day nationwide strike called midway through the event by the Confederación General de Trabajadores del Peru (CGTP), the country's largest labor organization. Protesting the free-market policies of the continent's least-popular leader, President Alejandro Toledo, the action resulted in 76 arrests, although the Associated Press characterized the strike's impact as minimal (Monte Hayes, "Peruvians Largely Ignore Call for Strike," 14 July). The government mobilized 93,000 police to make its views clear; former president and opposition Aprista Party leader Alan Garcia, however, supported the strike. More disruptive was the shutdown of Aero Continente, one of Peru's two major air carriers, when its insurance contract was not renewed. At least one journalist—the BBC's Tim Vickery—had to change his travel plans.

Football spectacles in Latin America always seem to raise the specter of the past,
Click for ReVista website
ReVista magazine spotlights Chile and the Chilean national stadium in its spring issue.
when governments have greatly overreached, suspending regard for human rights and using sports or stadia as sites for their evil deeds. Previous excesses in Chile and Mexico both made news during the tournament. In its spring issue, ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America includes photography and a recollection of the Chilean national stadium's time as a prison and torture center in the fall of 1973 (Katherine Hite, "Chile's National Stadium: As Monument, as Memorial"). On 11 September of that year, military forces overthrew socialist president Salvador Allende, installing Augusto Pinochet as dictator. Soldiers ransacked the home of Nobel Prize–winning poet Pablo Neruda—whose 100th birthday was commemorated on 12 July—leading to bedridden Neruda's famous remark: "The only weapons here are words." Following Carmen Luz Parot's documentary Estadio Nacional (2001), the stadium has been turned into a still-functioning memorial, of which Hite writes:

The National Stadium . . . is clearly a cultural icon of the nation. As a site of traumatic memory, the Stadium thus poses unique opportunities as well as challenges. With its 80,000-seat capacity, the Stadium is the site of the most important soccer matches in the country (and a World Cup site in 1962), immensely popular musical concerts, and other athletic and cultural events. It is extremely "inhabited." Tens of thousands constantly come and go through the stadium's gates. The fate of the Stadium as monument does not risk the physical, social and cultural relegation common to many conventional historic monuments.

Nor will the monument assume the quality of some static, impenetrable granite object commemorating fallen heroes. Too often, writes Chilean cultural scholar and critic Nelly Richard, a monument represents "the nostalgic contemplation of the heroic; the reification of the past in a commemorative block that petrifies the memorial as inert material." In the stadium, citizens will travel in and through the monument, making relegation, distance, and inertia far more difficult. Locating the accounts of victims and their families within the monument necessarily engages the representations of the past atrocities with the vibrant, emotional lived experiences of the present.

Mexico's ignominy occurred on 2 October 1968 when, 10 days before the start of the Olympic Games, government forces opened fire on student protesters in the La Plaza de las Tres Culturas at Tlatelolco in Mexico City, killing several hundred (see Tim Weiner, "When the Olympic Games Turned Political," New York Times, 24 July). Luis Echeverría, the interior minister in 1968 and later Mexico's president, was indicted on 23 July for his alleged role in authorizing additional murders of demonstrators in 1971. In between, of course, Mexico hosted the World Cup finals. But, according to Weiner's article in the Times, some historians date the end of Mexico's one-party rule to the events of 1968. The change culminated in 2000 with the election of current president Vincente Fox, who has his own problems.

Colombia, which finished fourth in Copa América, nearly had to surrender the tournament in

Yet another photo of besparkled South American terraces, this time from Once Caldas. (www.oncecaldas.com.co)
2001, as it had the World Cup in 1986 (to Mexico) due to spates of drug-related killings. But its positive showing over the last few weeks and the unlikely triumph of Manizales-based Once Caldas in the Copa Libertadores—over Boca Juniors in a penalty shootout on 1 July—perhaps give the nation's football new optimism. Once Caldas drew on its location in the Andes (the final home tie with Boca took place 7,095 feet above sea level) and fervent home support to give Colombia only its second Libertadores title. "You have given the country infinite happiness," president Alvaro Uribe told the team.

Finally, ties between the United States—which turned down a Copa América place to concentrate on CONCACAF World Cup qualifying—and its Latin neighbors have been in focus. Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl concluded the magazine's four-part series on globalization in sports by contrasting the efforts of the National Football League and Major League Soccer to win over non-American fans ("Football vs. Fútbol," 5 July). MLS, of course, has accepted Jose Vergara's proposal for Chivas USA, to be based outside Los Angeles. Wahl writes:

The plan is rich in irony: MLS will be creating its own regional type of globalization by harnessing the power of globalism's supposed bugbear, fervent nationalism. In the most multinational of sports, Chivas's appeal is simple: It has never signed a non-Mexican player in its 97-year history. "We want to spread the passion of being all [Mexican] nationals," Vergara says, "and, of course, of always giving everything you have. That's how Mexicans play—and how Chivas USA is going to play."

Vergara certainly seems forward-thinking, attracted in the near-term by the 9.5 million people in Los Angeles County, of whom 45 percent are Latinos. Vergara also has been cited for uplifting women in the Mexican workplace, having created business and self-empowerment training centers solely for women. "In Latin American countries we have wasted women in the workforce because of our macho education," Vergara tells Wahl ("Have Ambition, Will Travel," SI.com, 30 June). Certainly Chivas will encounter cultural differences in its new venture. An interesting distinction likely will come in the area of branding. As the Financial Times noted recently (John Authers, "Why Mexicans Mix Cement with Football," 8 July), Chivas currently wears the logo of Cemento Tolteca. Other Mexican clubs, too, are endorsed by cement makers, well aware that "in Mexico, and in much of the rest of the developing world, people buy cement one bag at a time, usually from small hardware stores. That means it must be sold and marketed as a consumer product, not in bulk from business to business, as it is in developed economies." Women sometimes decide what cement to buy, showing again that preconceived notions often mislead.

Haiti Plays On, through Strife
In matches in Miami and Hialeah, Florida, Haiti advanced to a World Cup qualifying meeting with Jamaica, defeating Turks and Caicos 7–0 on aggregate. The results must please the some 230,000 Haitians in South Florida—the largest concentration in the United States (Abby Goodnough, "Island Chaos Casts a Pall Over Miami's Little Haiti," New York Times)—but a larger reality remains the political difficulties in

Anti-Aristide marchers gather in Port-au-Prince (Miami Herald)
Haiti and the cultural struggles in their new homeland. Just before the second leg, midfielder Peter Germain learned his home in Saint-Marc had been burned to the ground (Michael Lewis, "Haitian Team Hit by Unrest," New York Daily News). Furthermore, as rebel forces in Haiti advance on the capital, Haitians in Florida and elsewhere in the United States suffer under a restrictive immigration policy and discrimination from both whites and African Americans.

Beneath the language and culture barriers lies the issue of society's acceptance of Haitians . . . , who point to the U.S. immigration policies toward Haitians as an example. Unlike Cubans who are greeted by an immigration law that allows them to apply for permanent residency, Haitians trying to seek refuge in the United States are put in detention or sent back to Haiti. (Kelly Brewington, "Struggles Follow Haitian Students to School in Orlando," Orlando Sentinel, 21 February; registration required)

Other recent features on Haiti

Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune ("Political Fallout," 10 March) and the New York Times's George Vecsey ("Haitian Players Watch the Ball and the Tube," 4 March) write in particular about Clavijo. The football team featured on 28 February on the radio program Only a Game (WBUR-FM, Boston) and also in the Miami Herald (Michelle Kaufman, "With Worried Eyes on Home, Soccer Team Seeks to Inspire," 27 February).

Fernando Clavijo, a former U.S. international, born in Uruguay, took over as coach of the national team in October 2003 and moved the training camp to Florida (Michelle Kaufman, "Haiti Shows New Life in the Soccer World," Knight Ridder Newspapers, 15 November 2003).

In the recent qualifier's first leg, Haiti's Johnny Descollines recalled the exploits of Haitian star Emmanuel Sanon (two goals in the 1974 World Cup finals, in which Haiti became the first finals entrant from the Caribbean) with a hat trick inside a seven-minute interval ("Hot Haiti's Hat-Trick Hero," FIFAWorldCup.com). Nono Baptiste, former Haiti coach, effused afterward:

No puedo describir la emoción que produce esta victoria en la comunidad haitiana. Siempre cuando escucho la radio, veo la televisión y leo los periódicos, encuentro sólo malas noticias sobre Haití. La victoria del domingo produjo una noticia positiva, como un rayo de esperanza que demuestra el potencial de nuestra gente. ("I can't describe the emotion that this victory provides the Haitian community. When I listen to the radio, watch television and read newspapers I only see bad news about Haiti. Sunday's victory gives us some good news, like a ray of hope demonstrating the potential of our people.") (Luis F. Sanchez, "Baptiste, timón de oro de la Selección Haití," El Nuevo Herald [Miami])

The U.S. women's national team faces Haiti on Friday in a CONCACAF Olympic qualifier in Costa Rica. The men play the Haitians in Miami on March 13. (To keep up to date on political events, refer to the Miami Herald's Haiti page.) | back to top