RBR ON THE ROAD – DAY 6 THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

Jeremy Hall and Seth Stammler meet Bobby Duvall and his U17 L'Athletique d'Haiti Dansk Cup winning team

It was like Friday Night Lights, only it was Thursday night in Haiti. And it was real football, not the American version. A field lit by four small towers, run off generators. All that could be seen for miles was the glow of the field.

After visiting the Water Station in the morning, Seth and Jeremy headed for L’Athletique d’Haiti to meet it’s founder Bobby Duvall and to participate in a match with the players from the Under 17 team.

When we arrived, there were already close to 1,000 people in the walled compound that housed six soccer fields and a building for the academy.

Seth and Jeremy met with almost 100 of the nearly 1,500 youth soccer players who are part of the after-school soccer program that has five facilities throughout Haiti.  And, they also met with the L’Athletique U-17 team which won the Dansk Cup in Denmark earlier this year, defeating a team from Germany.

Then it was onto the field. As we walked with the players out on the field, a festive atmosphere was already in the air with a stage set up and a DJ playing thumping music. As Seth and Jeremy joined in warm-ups and got ready to play, the fans encircled the field – literally. Nearly 1,000 fans stood on the sidelines, four and five deep, to watch the action. And another estimated 1,500 fans were in the stands and throughout the complex.

Seth’s Blue team scored the only first half goal in the 17th minute of the 35-minute half. And when halftime came, it was nothing like an MLS match. The crowd surged on the field to get a closer look at the halftime show that included a dance team and a clown show. Finally after almost 30 minutes, the fans cleared the field and the second half got underway. Stammler’s side notched another goal and won, 2-0.

At halftime, RBR met two fans from Haiti, who actually worked in Columbus, Ohio, and were home for the holidays. Jean Baptiste Michel and Sait Louis Marcelin both work in Columbus.  They had gone to two Sporting Chance Foundation fundraisers and had kept in touch with Seth’s father Brad. When Brad told them about the trip, they were excited to learn that they would be in Port-au-Prince at the same time and were there to support Seth’s efforts.

“We’re glad that we could be here to support Seth and his works,” said Michel, who works for a technology company back in Columbus. “It was lucky that we we’re here and wouldn’t have missed tonight. It’s great to see what he’s accomplished for the kids here in Haiti.”

When the final whistle sounded, the crowd hit the field again and surrounded the players. Many of the L’Athletique players went to Seth and Jeremy asking for their boots, and I realized then that many of the kids have so little and what they do have is old. So both Seth and Jeremy took off their boots and gave them to two players from the academy. Each Haitian player thanked Seth and Jeremy and hurried off with their prized possessions.

It was an evening that really hit all in the travel party hard – to see kids playing soccer on a spotty grass field with just goal frames in a crumbling L’Athletique d’Haiti complex that is located in Cite Soliel and Bel Air sections of Port-au-Prince, the worst slums in Haiti. Between 400,000 – 500,000 people live in shacks without running water, sanitation or electricity.  Only four schools, including L’Athletique d’Haiti provide sports as part of the curriculum due to human and infrastructure impediments.

It continues to be clear that there is a lot to be done in Haiti in terms of potable water and education. But there is also soccer. There were hundreds of kids at the match that are a part of L’Athletique.  They have little in terms of equipment but much in terms of talent.  Bobbt Duvall, who runs L’Athletique, continues his efforts to use the game to develop young men and women in Haiti by providing food and education as well as the game. In addition to the lack of potable water, malnutrition is commonplace. Each kid receives meals and nutritional supplements daily to improve their level of health. Additionally, the kids receive an education. With it, Duvall has put through thousands of kids who’ve gotten jobs once they leave. Soccer is important, but so is building the youth of Haiti. In Duvall, they have found a tireless leader whose only goal is to improve his home country.

Raised in Haiti, then relocated to the United States, Duvall went to college first at Nicholls College in Boston where he played soccer. But a trip to Montreal changed his perspective. He and a friend drove to Montreal in a snowstorm, arriving nearly a day later. But he like the scenery better and called his Dad to tell him that he had transferred to Loyola University, where he later won a national championship in soccer. Shortly thereafter he returned to Haiti and was arrested, becoming a political prisoner. For 17 months between 1976 and 1977 he was crammed into a tiny prison cell with 40 other men. When then US President Jimmy Carter’s list of people to release got to Haiti, he was one of only three people still alive from the list.

After two days with him, it’s clear he’s is one of the most engaging and tireless people. People that work with him are dedicated to him and his work – both in running the L’Athletique and fund-raising, as the program is run solely on donations. He travels throughout the world working to build soccer in Haiti.

After seeing what’s been done so far, he will achieve what he’s set his mind to and continue to build lives as well as soccer talent for the people in Haiti. It is a night that will long be remembered by those of us from the group that were there.

The crowd gathers before the match at L'Athletique' d'Haiti

Seth Stammler heads into L'Athletique d'Haiti

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4 Responses to “RBR ON THE ROAD – DAY 6 THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS”

  1. Red Bulls Soccer Says:

    video of all Red Bull goals of 2009 season put together by ESC. Post this one instead.

  2. Kamikaze Says:

    thanks for the info
    Im gonna use this in my project as refrence..
    happy new year btw 🙂

  3. thubten_dolma Says:

    Does anyone know how I might contact Bobby Duval?
    Thank you-
    Thubten Dolma

  4. russell stubbles Says:

    We want to help. How?
    Professor of park management, etc. south dakota state university

    put us in touch with your American network of aid, please.

    thank you

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