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Haiti's soccer team in Texas to play

April 23, 2010 8:34:33 AM PDT
It's been far too long since Haitian soccer players have been on a field.

"The Haitian people like soccer. And we live for soccer," Haitian soccer player Jerman Peter said. "Everything we do is for soccer."

But after the massive quake, soccer disappeared. The soccer stadium was nearly destroyed, and every field turned into a tent city. A national pride was lost.

But all of that changed this week, and it started right here in New Braunfels, the new temporary home for players.

The contrast of the heartache and misery in Haiti, to a place like this, is almost overwhelming for the Haitian soccer players. New Braunfels can be a quiet, sleepy town, but it offers that peace and tranquility that allows Haitian soccer players to do what they do best.

Their arrival was kicked off with a friendly scrimmage against top-ranked Trinity University in San Antonio.

"For me, it feels like we're part of a bigger cause," Trinity soccer player Alan Castillegos said. "When you're watching this on TV, you feel like you can't do anything, but actually playing people from Haiti, knowing them, and getting the opportunity, you feel like you're helping them a whole lot more."

For Trinity players, it's a chance of a lifetime.

Not far away, Haitian players had their own pep talk.

"From the quake we rise," the players sing.

"We're going to play, and believe me, we're going to try to win," Peter said.

After months of misery, it feels so good to be back on the field.

It was an emotional moment of national pride.

Then, the long awaited match-up with Haiti controlling much of the game.

What makes this game so remarkable is that this is the first time since the quake that the national Haiti team has been out of their country, playing an opposing team and to a crowd of thousands.

The throngs came to support and to learn.

"I hope to learn my defense, 'cause I'm defense, and whoever is defense, I'm learning from them," said on the children in the stand.

There was no disappointment in this scrimmage. It was pure magic.

"I think these guys are really good," spectator Tibo Tavajor said. "I mean it's a national team."

In the end, the Haiti team left the field with a 2-0 victory - and plenty of new fans.

"I just wanted to have some autographs to have back home," spectator Conner Olded said.

And a memory is being taken back to the ruins of Haiti, building a nation through a soccer team.

The team will have scrimmages in Dallas and Austin, and return to Haiti late next week.


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