me (Jay) lining up a free kick (I didn't score)
I have some favorite times of the year. For example, I love it when the weather changes and it gets cold (this does not happen in Haiti) or when football season starts. I love when the days are long during the summer. I, of course, love holidays and when school gets out for the summer. And that “favorite time” feeling is multiplied exponentially once every 4 years during the World Cup, which is especially fun to watch in a country that loves soccer as much as Haiti.
So, needless to say, I was noticeably excited when our site became a World Cup training facility a few weeks ago. This was not for the standard World Cup, but for many reasons, I was even more excited; we were hosting the Haitian National Amputee Soccer Team as they trained for the Amputee World Cup in Argentina – which I did not even know existed – and which this team was passionately training for. By hosting the team, we opened up our Inpatient Ward Hospital Tent, provided meals for them, and provided transportation for them to the local soccer field twice a day for practice. The accommodations were far from spectacular, but the team was contagiously grateful, and we were all excited.
I was intrigued by how amputees play soccer, as you may be too, so let me break it down: They play with mostly all of the same rules as regular soccer. They do not play with a prosthetic leg, but instead they play with crutches. These crutches, though they don’t have built-in pogo sticks, seem to be launching the players as they sprint around the field. Each player only has one leg, with the exception of the goalie, who has only one arm.
During the week, we formed a team of Americans play the Haitians in their first “international friendly” match. Our US side struggled our way to a tie, 2-2, thanks to the help of the visiting (if slightly aging) and agile team from Watermark Community Church in Dallas, in what will be remembered as one of the most fun games of soccer I have ever played. In the process I became a huge fan of the amputee team. I tracked them as they travelled to Argentina, where, though they were defeated by competition that had been practicing together much longer, they emerged as icons of victory, as earthquake victims who have fought for survival and live with great joy.
I wish I could capture the joy on their faces as we spent the week with them. They attended our church service and we prayed for them. We laughed together, and truly thanked them for spending the week with us, even as they kept thanking us. I hope to get to play some more soccer with them soon, and they are now working to raise awareness to create an amputee soccer league in Haiti.
As we spent the week together, we started to learn their stories. Some of them were pre-quake amputees, but many had lost their limbs during the earthquake, and mostly all of them had stories that amaze me, with joy that infected me.
It is pretty cool to get to see them practice, which you can see in this piece that TIME made about the team after we hosted the training camp. The only disclaimer I have here is in regards to the title of the video, as many of the players I talked to had not found their hope in soccer, but out of humility, already had their hope for today and tomorrow set in Jesus.
Now that you know about this incredible team, start training and then come on down to Haiti and let’s try to go play another match with our World Cup friends. You just may experience the most fun soccer game of your life.
both teams recovering after the match