Haiti vs. Japan - Will Japan be playing the true Haiti National team or a select of Haitian players living abroad?

If you expect Haiti's friendly versus Japan on 10 October to showcase Haitian football in the Far East and give some local players the opportunity to walk away with a contract in a region with virtually no Haitian presence you need to stop dreaming right now. Players in Haiti are left out and replaced in most cases by less talented and older ones from abroad. About 7 new players who were not a member of the foreign-based only team that failed to qualify for the gold cup will travel to Japon but neither has a connection with Haitian football. Just one player currently living in Haiti is on the selectee list but everyone knows he has zero chance of actually receiving a minute of play.

Obviously, Japan will not face a true national team of Haiti but a team of Haitian players living abroad. A national team is the selection of the best available players of a nation, primarily and preferably from the country's local leagues. The strength of the team tells the officials whether their development programs are on the right track or not.  As we all know, the players of the group facing Japan are not selected for their performance or proven qualities. The most significant qualification to make this team is to have been born in a foreign country, preferably France. In fact, out of the 20 players on the list, 14 were born overseas or grew up abroad and have never played football in Haiti. Only 3 players from the remaining 6 have a realistic chance to leave the bench. None of those 6 players would have been called up if there were enough foreign-born players to make the list of 20! No doubt, the 6 players with connections to football in Haiti are actually the outsiders.

As sad as it is to say, the concept of national team no longer exists at the FHF. If in most other countries it means scouting players from national leagues and supplement the group of selectees with expatriates from foreign leagues when available to build a strong team, this definition has long been lost at the FHF. To Yves Jean-Bart, the perfect national team for Haiti is one with no local players at all! He takes pride in that. For example, after a selection that included some local players due to a lack of available foreign ones rescued Haiti from early elimination  by beating nemesis and host Trinidad, all the locals were unceremoniously replaced by foreign players in the following games versus Nicaragua resulting in Haiti getting eliminated by a team weaker than Trinidad! To him, the team that beat Trinidad was not truly the national team because it had local players in it.

Therefore, what is a national team? Is it fair to call a group of players a national team just because they have some Haitian heritage or should our national team count the best available Haitian players, especially those who represent Haitian football?

The answer depends really on whether a supporter truly understands the purpose of a national team and what it represents to its nation. There are those who believe that a national team has nothing to do with the football of the country it represents. To them, it is just a team that carries a name similar to AC Milan or Manchester United. Therefore, it does not matter the team would feature 11 players from abroad whether they are truly Haitians or not. 

There is another more macabre reason why some people in Haiti actually prefer not to see local players in the team. The Haiti 'brand' is currently at its lowest in Haiti where anything foreign is considered superior. This situation is unfortunately not unusual in most former colonies of France but in Haiti it has taken another dimension. Therefore, there is this underlining complex of inferiority that prevents people from believing that something 'Haitian' can be good. A Haitian player is not good unless he plays abroad and if a player was born abroad he is necessarily good and better than anyone in Haiti.

Fortunately, the majority of Haitian supporters are not fooled. They understand that a true national team of Haiti would necessarily include the best that the country has. These supporters of football in Haiti will continue to fight for the development of the sport in the country and its right to be represented on the international scene through its own national team. Talented foreign-born players who truly want to represent Haiti will always be welcomed and cheered but the team will always be an ambassador of football in Haiti.


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