Anticipating defeats versus Costa Rica and Jamaica, respectively on September 2 and 6, the Federation haitienne de football (FHF) has laid the ground for new excuses in a post on its Facebook page lamenting that a combination of all misfortunes in the world befall the national team including but not limited to player injuries, Haiti’s chronic poverty, and government’s refusal to shower the FHF with money among others.
As expected, none of the real causes of the lack of support from the government and the public is listed in the FHF long list of misfortunes. The FHF did not mention the unpopularity of the coach stuff it insists to keep at the head of the national team, the lack of vision and leadership within the organization, and the alienation of the supporters by the organization’s repugnant francomania that disconnects the national team from local football.
Unpopular coaching Stuff
The main reason why the team lacks support is because of the presence of Patrice Neveu who is arguably the worst coach of the national team since Carlo Marcelin in 2005 and 2006. Neveu who has a long but unsuccessful career coaching third ranked African teams is clearly out of his league in the top level of CONCACAF where Haiti competes against the like of Costa Rica, USA, and Mexico. A stint at the Copa America clearly exposed the Frenchman as a fraud in the eyes of the football savvy Haitian public. In his team, defenders play forwards while midfielders are positioned in defense! It is total chaos.
However, the Frenchman Patrice Neveu’s most unforgivable sin is also why he still has a job: “francomania”
FHF’s francomania alienates the public and players from Haiti and elsewhere
Did you know there was a France national team at the Copa America and it was called “Haiti”? Believe it or not, Haiti played the Copa America with more French citizens in its roster than actual Haitian citizens and was the only national team that did not feature a single local player. Haiti’s 7-1 embarrassing loss to Brazil and the country unenvied last place at the tournament just added insult to injury.
However, it is quite ironic to see so many low quality French players of allegedly Haitian descent in the national team considering that Haiti has a relatively small diaspora in France which maintains a rather loose connection with the country. Most Franco-Haitians born in France have never set foot in Haiti or rarely do while a great numbers of those ‘Haitians” often have one or more other Caribbean countries they may pledge allegiance to. Haiti is almost never the first choice of the Franco-Haitians who mostly dream to represent their homeland France.
In 2015, Paris Saint-Germain graduated 3 young players of Haitian descent and decided to release one while holding on to the other two. Sure enough, only the released player agreed to play for Haiti while the other two have decided to wait for France. Similarly, Haiti spent years chasing Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, a talented young defender, but the player with a minimal chance of getting a call from France told the FHF to get off his trail because he feels more Guadeloupian than Haitian. However, some players have adopted a less diplomatic approach. Williams Vainqueur who has been solemnly announced as joining the national team on many occasions told them flat out that he is not ‘Haitian’.
However, the francomania of the FHF is persistent. To them it is not about playing good football, it is about being French or having a French connection. Kervens Belfort is a prime example of how a trip to France can lock you in with the national team. In 2012, the then hot prospect moved to France to join Le Mans which was at the time a second division club. Unfortunately, although still young, Belfort has long faded. He has scored only once for Haiti since 2015 yet he is a starter in almost every match. The player’s diminished skills and loss of speed do not bother anyone at the FHF and the coach. No doubt, in their mind a guy who has played in France is a better option than anyone else even if another player is head and shoulder better.
Players from other diaspora communities overlooked
Haiti has a larger diaspora community in North America than in France. The francomania of the FHF and the French coaches they hire has blinded their judgement when it comes to player selection. In 2015, Fafa Picault was a hot prospect Haitian-American player from a family with a long history with Haitian football. The then Fort Lauderdale Striker’s prolific forward was riding a wave of momentum scoring once every two matches with an impressive 12 goals during the season. Yet, he was bypassed by then French coach Marc Collat for Kervens Belfort who was a substitute who rarely played at St-Raphael, a third division French club. Fafa went on to find success in Europe playing in Czech Republic and Germany scoring many goals while Kerven’s career continues on a flat plan.
Most recently, new French coach Patrice Neveu called up Derrick Etienne, another young Haitian-American, to join the list of 23 players he took to the Copa America. The coach, as expected, left everyone not French or having a French connection on the bench opting to play instead guys like long-faded France-born striker Jean-Eudes Maurice. Etienne was not given any playing time.
It was a similar scenario for the hero of Haiti’s last victory Steward Ceus, a 1-0 win over archrival Trinidad to clinch the berth for the Copa America. The giant goalie made some excellent saves to power Haiti to a victory over Trinidad. Unfortunately, he was immediately sidelined by Johnny Placide, a France-born goalie, who had been struggling at his club and was eventually released.
Ceus, Etienne, and Picault were all overlooked because they lack the one qualification that matters to the FHF and their French coaches: French connection! Would you blame Brian Sylvestre, Fafa Picault, and now Derrick Etienne for wanting out of this farce?
Haitian players in Haiti are blocked
There is no doubt Haiti is a country with many talented footballers. One does not have to be an expert to attest to this fact by looking at the various Haitian youth teams. Roobens Philogene, Honel Desire, and Woodensky Cherenfant are a few players who are not yet 23 that Haiti could reliable depend on for 2022. Unfortunately, for the FHF’s president Yves Jean-Bart Haiti does not have good football players. He salivates over the prospect of bringing in any less talented players from France but consider it “contrary to progress” to groom players at home to become reliable members of the national team.
The new tale is that of the highly hyped new recruit Andy Faustin, a 19 year old of second division France, who is mostly used as a substitute and had only scored once in 16 games last season. This season’s lone goal for the pro group still as a substitute has earned him a direct pass to the national team and is expected to be a starter. Is he the absolute best choice? Probably not. But, knowing that the selection of players to the national team is not competitive and is mostly based on how French a player is, the alternative is pure horror because it means playing Frenchman Jean-Eudes or Belfort!
Meanwhile, players in Haiti are used mostly as placeholders. Their names make official lists only when there are not enough foreign-based players, preferably from France, or when the FHF wants to play the patriotic card to make the government believe that the national team represents Haitians in Haiti as well. In all cases, none of the locally based players are expected to make the final lists of players who will actually play regardless of their superior skills and talents.