Thirty-two people perished in the Haitian Football Federation building in Port-au-Prince when a massive earthquake struck Haiti on January 12.[ad#as2]
While the offices have been reduced to rubble, the stadium that hosts many national matches has been turned into a shelter for several thousand of the now homeless Haitian residents.
The team has been accounted for, but with all but two of the federation staff killed, and an infrastructure in ruins, football is furthest from anyone’s mind.
Haiti, however, is not far from the mind’s of the global football community.
In Lisbon last Tuesday, some 65,000 fans turned up for a United Nations charity match including players like Kaká, Luís Figo, Thierry Henry and Zinédine Zidane to raise money for the Haitian relief fund. Numerous football executives from around the world as well as star players have reached deep into their own pockets to donate the relief efforts. And on Thursday, FIFA’s finance committee pledged $3 million to help the federation rebuild.
It may seem strange to pour money into rebuilding football facilities when schools, homes and hospitals lie in ruins all over the city.
But there is a value to rebuilding such an enterprise alongside the most basic infrastructure needs. For so many children who have lost mothers or fathers, brothers or sisters, a pitch for football (or even baseball, which is massive all over the Caribbean) may provide solace, focus, hope and escape.
Sport has a healing power that belies description. No place was that more evident than seeing how New York sprang to life to unite behind the beloved Yankees in baseball’s World Series just weeks after the September 11 attack on that city.
So whether it results in the national team to providing something for the hurt national to rally behind, or giving a chance to an embattled youth to return to the joyous innocence of playing a beautiful game, funding football in this time of dire need is a very appropriate action.