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Youth tournament in Haiti proves football is more than just a game

A tournament organised by GOALS – Global Outreach and Love of Soccer – has hosted a succesful national youth soccer tournament in Haiti.

The tournament drew hundreds of football fans to Cité Soleil Fields for a weekend filled with sport and music, with a focus on improving health awareness.

‘Vin Jwe!’ (come and play) was GOALS’ second annual national youth soccer tournament.

Fondation L’Athletique D’Haiti’s boys’ and girls’ teams, from Citè Soleil, edged out the competition to secure the cup.

CNN hero Patrice Millet’s Fondaps team took second place and Citadelle FC were second in the girls tournament.

More than 250 players aged between the ages of 13 and 18 from all across Haiti demonstrated their skills on the field during the course of the two day tournament, held on April 14 and 15 in Haiti’s captal, Port-au-Prince.

Personal health

Organizational partners came together to encourage and empower the young players to take charge of their personal health.

BoulderShares, who sponsored the event, provided individual health counselling and launched the use of a new health card to enable youth to track information about their health, while Global DIRT was on hand to provide first aid care.

Each team received personal care kits with a variety of donated first aid supplies and hand sanitizer, plus information about protecting themselves against cholera and other health risks.

A professional DJ kept the energy high at the event and reinforced health and hygiene messages. An estimated 1,000 people filled the sidelines to support their favorite teams.

Along with learning how to take charge of their health, the young players were treated to an inspiring exhibition match played by Haiti’s national amputee team.

GOALS director and tournament organizer Kona Shen said: “I’m proud of the sportsmanship and spirit displayed by all of the teams at the tournament, and I’m particularly proud of the girls teams for their inspiring determination and level of play on the field.

“Through their love of soccer, these girls have become confident, healthy, determined young women. It’s incredible to see the support they have from the community, such as the hundreds of men and boys cheering them on as they play for a championship title.”

Extreme poverty

Football always has an exceptional power to forge friendships, cross social and economic divisions, and create safe and inviting spaces, and this is true even in the midst of the extreme poverty of post-disaster Haiti.

As Haiti’s national game, football is a part of daily life. Children play barefoot with friends and strangers amongst piles of rubble, kicking around tin cans, water bottles, or whatever they can find if a ball isn’t available.

After the devastating earthquake of 2010, football fields and stadiums became home to thousands of internally displaced people, who set up camp on the pitch. In the immediate aftermath, when aftershocks still threatened already weakened buildings, open soccer fields also hosted emergency medical teams operating out of makeshift tent hospitals.

Although football has a long history in Haiti, using soccer to advance development and promote health is relatively new ground.

By hosting the largest youth soccer tournament in Haiti, GOALS is furthering its ongoing efforts to use soccer as a means to advance social change at the community and national level.

Quality of life

GOALS is a sport-for-development organization which harnesses the intense love of soccer in Haiti to engage youth in education and projects to improve their quality of life and develop local leadership.

According to UNICEF, “Sport can be an effective tool to help achieve goals in health, education, gender equality, HIV and AIDS, child protection and child development.”

By convening aid agencies with hundreds of young soccer players from around Haiti to promote positive and healthy youth development, GOALS’ second annual tournament proved that football is much more than just a game.

The winning boys' and girls' teams are pictured after accepting their trophies.

GOALS is a non-profit organization founded in the USA with its headquarters in Leogane, Haiti. GOALS’ soccer programmes have a positive impact on 500 children every day, and reach an additional 3,400 people through outreach to families. For more information about GOALS, visit www.goalshaiti.org


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