Tough Game

I wanted to take some time before writing this post. We had a very tough game against Trinidad and Tobago a night ago. It was a game that I will never forget.

We arrived in Chicago pumped and ready to fight. We knew that we were one game away from making a huge difference in our country. It was emotional, exciting, and one of goals feelings every athlete strives for. I woke up really early and couldn’t go back to sleep. All I could think about was finding a way to let my team know we are going to do great things. I wanted them to feel all the support that we have been receiving and truly enjoy it. I just wanted to help. So, I did what I always do when I’m stuck. I started to write. I wrote down things I want and needed to share with the team. Below is some of what I said to them on game day:

“All the emails and Facebook messages and game reports, media keep saying we played a man down against Guatemala. I’ve even said we played a man down.

But it’s wrong. I was wrong.

We played with eleven and we all know who our eleventh player was.

But then I thought about it again and realized that’s wrong too.

Because every time we step on the field, we play with every single person who has ever influenced us in soccer.

We play with those coaches who taught us the fundamentals of this beautiful game past or present.

We play with family who came to watch us even when we were five years old and all we did was chase the ball around in circles.

We play with every fan who ever screamed our name.

We play with our former teammates who pushed us and lifted us when we couldn’t lift ourselves.

So, when we step on the field today, think of those people and know they stepped on the field with you.

And I know that Shek always says, if God is with us, who can be against us.

No disrespect, But I think that’s only half correct.

Because We don’t just have God with us.

We have every single person who has ever believed in us and lifted us up in prayer out there on the field.

Coach, you will be out there with us.

All of our coaches who have helped through these years, trainers who have trained us and healed us.

Will be standing by our side, holding our hand. Cheering us on, lifting our spirit.”

I truly felt the support before during and after our match. We didn’t win. We didn’t fully secure our spot in the 2015 World Cup. We didn’t do what we set out to do statistically speaking. But I know without a doubt that we made Haiti proud and worked as hard as we could and did not give up. We know we are paving the way for Haitians to build on later. I can’t wait to watch that develop.

I’m excited to face USA on Monday and can’t wait to keep showing the world that the NEW Haiti is here and we aren’t going away!

Travel Day

It was hard to get to sleep after a game like that. Plays and moments ran through our heads constantly. I watched the game highlights many times and couldn’t believe some of the moments even when I saw them on tape right in front of me. There were definitely 11 of us on the field the whole game. It’s amazing how proud I felt all day today.

There was so much support and good wishes flowing in today. This tournament is set up to have us play in many locations. A couple that I’ve never been to. Although it will be great and an honor to play in these places, I know that the travel is rough on our bodies. Many of us are feeling the aftermath of the game in a big way. Most of us had a night like mine where we couldn’t sleep because of the shock of what we just endured. Some of us felt some moments we wanted to take back but pride in the fact that we collectively worked for 97minutes.

But the best thing is, none of that matters. We are ready. We are excited and when it comes to game time, pain is irrelevant. The travel will be irrelevant. The past will be irrelevant. All that will matter are the players and their drive and desire to do everything in our power to make this dream come to life. And we have it. We have an opportunity right in front of us to change everything. We have an opportunity right here to change the course of women’s soccer for all the girls in Haiti. But it’s more than that. It’s so much more. Haiti has come through some of the most horrific things, but always coming out stronger. We lead one of the most defining and influential revolutions in all of history leading us to a road of freedom. And now we, the Haiti Women’s National Soccer Team, would want nothing more than to lead the country to a place of pride and hope for a better future. I’ve grown up admiring the 99’s from the women’s US National team and I truly feel this group has the opportunity to do something of that magnitude for the women of Haiti. I can’t wait to be a part of it. The game will have nothing to do with Trinidad and everything to do with us and the passion and power that is coursing through our blood.

Mwen priye pou Bondye ap jwenn favè nan nou. I pray that God will find favor in us.

Game Day! Guatemala Here We Come!

Haiti Goal PK SaveI woke up this morning way too early. There was no more need to sleep. I just wanted to play. I just wanted to get to the field and beat this team already. All my dreams surrounded that feeling until the catapulted me into consciousness. Then it was breakfast time.

We were followed again by more media all morning. Two awesome guys recorded us joking around. My breakfast table is quickly becoming an unsafe environment with all of the pranks going on escalating at every meal. Then after breakfast, we found out who those camera men were. It turns out that the founder of TOMS the shoe company read our article in the New York Times and was really taken back by our lack of resources. So he decided to do something about it. He sent the co-founder Jake Strom to come and surprise us with new gear and our very own pair of TOMS!! He showed us a video of the founder and I got to hear first hand his mission with his shoes and his influences in Haiti right now. It’s amazing and if you could just take a second to go look at their story, you will be instantly inspired to do good in this world.

After such an empowering surprise, we felt good, no great, and thanks to TOMS, we looked real good. We had another tactical meeting and more food and more pranks. Usually I say game day flies by and before we knew it, it was time to play. Not today. It inched and crawled by, but each moment was savored and we felt so much support from family and friends.

When we finally got to the field, the excitement was almost overwhelming, but I couldn’t peak too early. Everything you do when you get to the field is timed. You have a certain amount of time for this and that and have to make sure you manage it well. That didn’t stop me from taking some amazing jumping pictures on the field before the game. Then we got settled in the locker room. Got all the last minute treatment we needed. Talked with our coach again, prayed for safety in the game for both teams and were ushered onto the field. Game time couldn’t come fast enough.

I wish I could tell you we came out swinging with chance after chance, but we had a pretty rough start. Just 17 minutes in, things got serious. Our goalkeeper got red carded and the other team awarded a PK and we had to go a man down. Yes, 17 minutes into the game. Our other goalkeeper would have to come in, cold, unprepared after sitting since we ended warm up and jump right into a PK. While we were waiting for her to come on the pitch, we gathered together, pumped each other up and told each other we now represent two people each and we will not let this stop us. The PK shooter took her place, our GK took hers. The whistle blew, she runs at the ball, hits it towards the corner and BAM! What everyone thought was an unprepared keeper was way way far from the truth. Our keeper lunges towards it and gets a hand on it and instead of it going in as it looked like it would, she pounces on it again and SAVED IT!!!! She couldn’t have been more prepared. There’s a time and a place for a dog pile, and unfortunately, majority of our team chose this one. The ref had to break it up and remind us we still had about 27 ish minutes left and we needed to start playing.

As you can imagine, our whole team, every inch of our being was lifted and energized by this save. She kept us in the game and in this tournament. But we were still a man down. We fought and fought and came out of the half 0-0 by God’s grace alone.

At the start of the second half, our coach substituted two players into the game. One of which was Kimberly Boulos and if you’ve read any of these from last years, you already know who she is. She is the friend I started this whole experience with and someone I can’t live without. She has pushed me our whole friendship and I definitely wouldn’t have half of my successes today if not for this amazing woman.

This time, we did come out swinging. We fought for every ball, we kept possession and we worked as hard as we could. I even forgot we were a man down. Every second our team was clawing for opportunities. And then it happened. From a ball coming in from a free kick, it came to our captains head and she fired it toward the goal, but the keeper got the best of it, but fell to the ground as a result. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced 3-5 fit athletic women sprinting at you at top speed with cleats on while on the ground holding onto your dreams of a better life…but now this poor keeper has. We all rushed the ball that was bouncing in front of the goal and WILLED it into the back of the net!!! I think three or four players scored all at once and it wasn’t pretty. I’m almost certain it bounced off of at least three people’s tummies!! But, like mom has always said to me, it doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to go in. And it did. We were 1-0 up in our first game of the tournament and we did it with only 10 players.

Things definitely got harder and harder as the minutes dragged on. Our players were over exerting themselves all over the pitch. We may have felt like two people each on the field, but we still only had one body and many of those bodies started cramping. At times we had only 8 players on the field with players dropping like flies. And Guatemala was not going to let us have this easily. They had dreams of a better life. They too wanted to make history for their families and for their country.

I looked up to see 90 minutes is up, and then saw the allotted additional time. SEVEN MINUTES!! I almost cried. I had a couple bouts of calve cramps myself through this second half and wasn’t sure my legs would last seven more minutes. We had used up all of our subs at the start of the half. It was up to only us on the field. I was moved all over to compensate for players having to leave the field on stretchers from cramping, even one who got hit so hard in the head she lost her sight for a moment. From left mid to right mid to right back to left back, it was insane! Things were getting scary with Guatemala attacking viciously, hitting cross bars, near misses and having really annoying fresh legs. And then, the referee picked up the ball and blew the final whistle. Almost all the players on my team collapsed with joy, fatigue and utter relief that we didn’t have to run another step. We were rushed by our teammates from the bench. Emotions ran wild. We needed to clear the field quickly because there was another game right after ours. But doing anything quickly at this point was a lost cause. We headed to the tunnel and I heard her voice. The one who taught me how to pass for the first time. The one who would challenge me with juggle tricks for ice cream. The one who taught me that playing soccer just to win was never good enough and playing for anything outside of yourself will bring you success. I heard my mom. And you know how when you’re a little kid and you get hurt and think, “I got this, I’m good…” But then you see your mom and fall to pieces and cry? Yeah, that was me the moment our eyes met. I just wanted to run up and be cuddled in her arms, but it probably wasn’t the best time for that. She wasn’t the only one who came. Alena and her mom, sister and nephews came, my amazing friends Laura and Sara came!!! It was awesome!

As you can imagine, I’m overjoyed and exhausted, ecstatic and sore. There was definitely favor for us from higher places and I truly appreciate all the prayer and good thoughts from all who thought of us! Thank you to DUSL for all the support I’ve received and especially my two teams Dynamite and Magic!

Can’t wait to get on the pitch again against Trinidad!!!! Chicago bound and more importantly, one step closer to WORLD CUP BOUND!!!!

Day Two! Getting Ready!

Today was a long day, obviously because we couldn’t wait for it to be over so that we can beat Guatemala already. Breakfast was amazing. All the meals so far have been. But we haven’t let the mouth watering food and five star hotel distract us from our job here. After breakfast, we had our last meeting to solidify our roles in game play, on set pieces etc.

Before we knew it, we were eating again. We had some time after that and most of us watched a little TV, or caught up on some more sleep. It’s funny. We’ve been doing two a days, three a days, around our soccer teammates, talking about soccer, thinking about soccer 24/7, yet on our time off, there was no question what we wanted to watch on tv. More soccer. Sometimes this love of the game we all share baffles me, but then I’m reminded why it’s so strong. Soccer is loved worldwide, it’s a way of life or out of a hard life for so many people. Because it’s so universally loved, it is a spectacular tool that connects you to people of all different cultures and walks of life. It breaks down language barriers, social barriers, economical barriers. It basically just rocks! And I’m so thankful to my mom for putting me into this sport and not into ballet which she told me was a small aspiration of hers for me as a child. Wow, what a different life that would’ve been. So, thank you, mom, for making the right choice there.

Time for sleep and dreams of the celebration after we are victorious tomorrow! Beating this team will be one step towards the World Cup 2015! I cannot wait!!!

Day One of the Rest of Our Lives

We were set to leave at 6am this morning, but everyone was ready at 5am. Maybe even earlier. There is no denying the anticipation for what’s to come and the excitement is palpable. That’s the only thing that can explain how everyone is so awake dancing and singing before the sun has even considered coming up. Every car we saw, we jumped up to see if it was the bus. Surprisingly a lot of people up this particular morning driving up and down and taking our emotions on a similar path.

Finally, the bus came. We sprinted to it to get the best seats, and because when isn’t racing fun? It was pretty awesome, equipped with wifi and a seat for each of us to house us for the 10 hour drive. Most of us passed out the moment the bus left the apartment. And like I’ve been doing for quite a while, I was destined to dream about the tournament to come, down to corner kicks and where I’m supposed to be.

It’s been quite the road to get to today. We had double days, triple days, injuries, recoveries, sleepless nights of anticipation, and so so many memories that will be forever burned in our hearts. At times I would step back and watch and think of how amazing this all has been since the day I started with this team back in 2010. And don’t get me wrong, it definitely hasn’t been easy, not for me and especially not for my teammates, but does anything worth while ever come easily? I’ve been challenged, broken, rebuilt, broken again, and I wouldn’t change a second of it because those are the moments I have and will always draw from for strength. Especially when something as silly as leaving my phone at home happens.

This team is my family. I’ve been able to stay for training camp longer than I’ve ever been allowed before. It’s been a crazy experience. I live with eight other women (don’t worry, there are two bathrooms), with eight different personalities, eight different needs and eight beautiful hearts. I’ve learned so much more about how much these girls are family throughout these past few weeks and I’d like to share some of those experiences. One, it is amazing that nine women can co-exist together in harmony and how selfless you are called to be to make that happen. Even when sometimes you just want to take an hour shower and sit in the tub and contemplate the meaning of life, you can’t because that means our younger players only get a one minute shower that day. I’ve learned that I can sleep really well in the midst of rounds of WWE playing in the room next to me. Also learned that’s a pretty funny show. I learned my teammates, my family, will never let me go hungry and their ability to give me whatever they have on their plate so that I don’t is so beyond unselfish, I’m looking to create a word to describe it. With that said, eat fast and eat efficiently in a big family setting if you want seconds.

You’ve heard me talk about how amazing these girls and my team is and I’m so pleased to say that, finally, other people are seeing it. We have been blessed with tons of media lately who are all interested in telling this team’s story. With all that attention, we caught the interest of the one and only former president Bill Clinton who would like to help us financially. Yes. You read that correctly. Bill Clinton. That CRAZY!!! It gets better! Miami Heat owner, Micky Arison also wants to help us too! I can’t believe it. Still seriously in shock and can’t wait for this team to feel the love I know it deserves!

We have a day to acclimate tomorrow, and then it’s game time Wednesday! You can catch the games on FOX channels and find updates on the Haiti Women’s Football Facebook page.

Final Game Day v Martinique

It started as any other game day. Breakfast and shortly after, our pre game meeting. But instead of having separate tactical meetings like the other game days, we all came to the same meeting. I’ve heard plenty of pre game pump up speeches, been in many inspirational talks, and heard many different avenues to motivate a team. Not many like his one. My coach spoke of why we were here. What we play for or more specifically, who. Very strange that today is exactly 2 months from when all this will be over. It’ll be over because we are the first Caribbean team to qualify for the 2015 World Cup, or we did our best, but didn’t cut it. Either way, he pointed out in exactly two months from today, we will know which one is our fate. We will be crying tears of joy or tears of opportunities lost. He spoke of how this is the last chance for most of us because of our age. That we want to be able to look those who may be on their last journey with this team in the eye and proudly tell them we gave every ounce of ourselves to this. It was emotional and a necessary meeting for the team.

We won our game 5-1 today, but it wasn’t our best performance. There was a lot more we could’ve put into practice, especially after a speech like we had today. It was our fourth game in less than 9 days. We have learned a lot about ourselves and what we are capable of and what we need to improve on. We learned that in order to take this next step and qualify, it’s going to take absolute focus every time we strap on our boots. It will take all of us. Every last one of us to give whatever we have in us to seize this opportunity. And what a great and once in a lifetime opportunity it is.
Trinidad, it’s been great but it’s time to leave you. See you all at home soon! 

 

Day 9: Recovery Day

Today was a recovery for a lot if different reasons. It was our first day after a loss here and it definitely felt different. After a win, even if your body feels horrible, it still feels better than after a loss. Even if you got in all the same type tackles, had as many runs as the other game, or got hit just as much…things just hurt more when the outcome wasn’t what you wanted.

With that said, I actually did get into a pretty bad tackle that could’ve really taken me out of the game, but adrenaline and pure will power kept me in until the game ended. I definitely paid for that today. I’m very fortunate though that I’m doing a lot better than many expected and had a pretty awesome day with my teammates. We got to see one of the most beautiful beaches in Trinidad and the water was perfect. I’m almost positive it healed many bumps and bruises we had before going in.
Tomorrow we prepare for our final game here and I’m confident we will finish strong! We play Martinique the day after tomorrow and we will be fighting for a good seed for the final round of Qualifiers! Can’t wait!

 

Game Day vs Jamaica

Today went something like this. Breakfast, walk and stretch, meetings, lunch, nap, game time. That’s how fast everything seemed. Jamaica is a tough team. You can tell this in the way they walk around the hotel, the way they greet you, in pretty much everything they do. We are tough too, no doubt, but unfortunately, they got the best of us tonight.

With a pretty soft foul against us in the first 10 minutes, they finished the free kick and went 1-0 up. We definitely played against 12 players if you count the ref, but we were told early on that these refs were inexperienced and may make some bad calls here and there. Something a coach told me a long time ago, make the ref as irrelevant as the grass. Simply meaning, if you do your job, play as hard as you can, the ref really shouldn’t matter. Sometimes that’s way easier said than done.
In the second half, when we went for it and threw more numbers forward, we got caught on a counter attack and they scored their second and last goal of the match. With games with this much passion, it could go either way. Today it went Jamaica’s way, but we still have one more game to play here. We play another team from the other bracket in a few days.
Bad news, that wasn’t fun to lose that game. Good news is, we are still going through to the next round with the wins and hard work we already put in here. Proud of my team as that was a hard fought game and we worked very hard. And hey, we have time to put in the work before the next round and learn from our experiences here.

Day 7: Another Recovery Day

Today was another day of rest, but we got to actually take the whole day to just rest. Some of our other days off were jam packed with meetings and walks and stretches. Today was just a do your own thing type day. Very much needed.

We got in the pool for some recovery and it was a pretty funny situation. Apparently, many girls do not know how to swim, even though they live on an island. So, I tried to teach a couple. Being someone who swam her whole life, I couldn’t imagine being an adult and dealing with the fear of drowning if I were trying to learn to swim now. I mean, kids are pretty fearless in most cases and they are generally terrified at first when it comes to swimming. Again, to be an adult and be gripped with that kind if fear seems pretty tough. Either way, I forced a couple to face that fear and it was pretty cute and awesome. I was also really surprised of how heavy they felt in the water. But then again, these women are made of pure muscle and rigid from the terror of drowning. One of them told me she’s the baby of the family and her mom didn’t want her to learn to swim because she didn’t want her to die out there in the water. But today, after we got out, she held her hands up and exclaimed, “Now I can swim!” In perfect English. Very proud teacher!
There was tons of fun and laughter today. Celebrating yesterday and looking forward to being in the next round of Qualifiers. Coach even bought us ice cream. Got to watch a bit of a game from the other group as well. And frankly, we can take them. But first, it’s Jamaica tomorrow to clench the spot of top of our own group. I’m excited and hope tonight’s sleep will be better than my last.

 

Day 6: Game Day vs Puerto Rico

photoThere’s a good nights’ sleep and then there’s what I had last night. A very very bad nights’ sleep. Such poor timing. I knew I had to wake up and knew that Haiti had a job to do today. I also knew I needed sleep, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t happening. So, today seemed like sort of a daze. We ate, I tried to take a nap, did the walk and stretch, tried to take a nap, ate again, tried to take another nap, then before I knew it, we were on the bus on our way to our next match which would decide if we qualify for the last round of Qualifiers before the World Cup.

Side note…I don’t think I quite explained the police escort well enough in my last blog and definitely didn’t do it justice. Holy Toledo batman, it’s awesome. If you’ve ever seen the movie Bruce Almighty where he’s stuck in traffic after he gets his God-like powers and simply whips his hand up and all of the cars part in front of him…yeah, it’s kind of like that. But instead of Jim Carry, we have two super tough cops who just zoom up in front of us and scare people to the side shoulder and we pass through the cars with ease. So incredibly awesome.
Anyway, the whistle blows and we are off. We start strong and have a couple chances right away. About 9minutes in, a ball goes flying towards our back line and our center back gets a piece of it first and heads it in my general direction. I chase it down and my outside back behind me heads forward on a mission and I play her the ball. Now, there’s fast, and then there’s Gervil fast. Her nickname is “Ti Machine” which translates as “little car” because she’s fast as can be and never stops moving. She takes the ball, beats one player, beats another and heads toward the near post. She sends a rocket of a cross toward that near post and it deflects off a defender and boom! Haiti 1-0. I would love to say that we totally dominated after getting this goal, but there was about 10minutes there where I was a little worried and we gave up a lot of silly fouls and got disorganized in our defending. But then, a ball goes flying towards my midfielder (Shanna Hudson) and she gets up for a header, but it goes wide towards the side line. Judging by the spin of the ball, I knew I could catch it, but would have to beat a defender there. I get a step in front and she swings and comes through me as if I didn’t exist! The ref blows the whistle and we get a free kick. The ball is sent whipping across the box, I miss it, another player misses it and just when I think it’s a wasted opportunity, oh captain, my captain slides and gets a piece of it and boom! 2-0 Haiti!
Unfortunately, that’s how we ended the half. Dangerous dangerous score. Coach wasn’t as hard on us this half time, and we stayed pumped for another 45minute battle. And boy was it a battle. Both teams knowing they have two options: win…or go home empty handed and give up a spot in the next round. And then, it just clicks. We start connecting pass after pass, getting through ball after through ball and really pounding on the door hungry for a goal. Ti Machine gets a ball to feet and takes off at full speed toward the back line who just wasn’t prepared at all. I spin out away from her as she draws on two then three defenders towards her. At the last possible moment, and to ensure I will be left completely unmarked, she slips a ball through to me. I take one big touch towards the near post and connect with he ball with everything left in my tired legs. Somehow, and I’ve watched this on video and still don’t get it, but somehow the ball slips passed the goalkeeper near post and bam! I was able to get that 3rd goal, in the 74th minute that let each and every one of us let out a huge breath of relief.
I was pulled off soon after and got to watch as we get yet another goal to end the game 4-0. We were the first team in the tournament to get a shut out and I couldn’t be more proud of the team I’m honored to call my own. But we aren’t done yet. We still have two more games in this tournament and we came here to win it all! So, Jamaica…you may have some awesome music, but put your dancing shoes away because we are coming for you!
But with that win, WE QUALIFY FOR THE NEXT ROUND!!!!! Just one more tournament to get through before the 2015 World Cup!!!!!

 

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