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Konbit the key for Haitian soccer team at USA CUP

07/12/2013, 7:30pm CDT
By Ryan Lund

Haitian Creole, spoken throughout much of the eponymous island nation, is a complex language.  Derived from French and infused with a myriad assortment of West African dialects and local tongues, the phonetic melting pot is the official language of the largely impoverished side of the island of Hispaniola.


The Haitian concept of "konbit" has translated well into the Sanneh Foundation's efforts to use soccer as a tool to help rebuild Haiti.

And while a number of different languages can be heard around the NSC campus during Schwan’s USA CUP, the sights and sounds of the Haitian team, led by international soccer veteran Tony Sanneh, remain as unique as their language.

One word that is sure to be heard throughout the Sanneh camp during Schwan’s USA CUP, is “konbit.”

John Evans, president of Hot Futbol, an organization dedicated to promoting opportunity through soccer in developing countries, describes the concept of “konbit” as integral to the success of Hot Futbol and Sanneh’s Haitian Initiative.

“When it’s time to harvest crops, everybody comes together, we’ll all harvest your crops, you’ll all harvest mine,” he says. “If we need to build a road, we’ll all come together and build a road.  If we need to build a house, we’ll all come together and build a house.”

This, Evans says, is konbit.

“It’s the weaving together of resources in the community to do what needs to be done,” he said.

Evans and Sanneh have come together to from a konbit of their own in Haiti, as the Tony Sanneh Foundation’s Haitian Initiative has come together with Hot Futbol and international aid organization Feed My Starving Children, to bring teams to USA CUP.

“I’ve known Tony for about three years,” said Evans.  “When they started coming down after the earthquake we started working with them.”

Evans and Hot Futbol have been in Haiti for about seven years, an effort which intensified following the devastating 2010 earthquake that crippled the nation, and laid waste to its capital of Port-au-Prince.

Sanneh’s teams hail from the cripplingly impoverished commune of Cite Soleil, the poorest community in the world’s poorest nation.

The opportunity to come to Blaine, to play on grass, is one that these children relish.

“The experience, it just means a ton for them in a myriad of ways,” Evans said.

Friday, Sanneh’s U14 boys team took on a team from Minnesota Thunder Academy, and their passion for the game was on full display.

“They get very excited,” he said.  “They play joyously; these kids are absolutely passionate.”

These boys have spent their athletic lives training and competing on Haiti’s small number of dirt and gravel soccer fields, where the speed of the game is greater, and the risk is higher.

Falls often mean blood, which makes the simple experience of playing on grass a new one for these kids.  Wilfrid, a 14-year-old Haitian player, enjoys the fresh turf, as well as the fresh experiences.

“The difference here, the grass is better than the field that we have in Haiti,” the young player said through a translator.

Wilfrid and his teammates have also spent time bonding with their host families, as each of the boys is being hosted by a local family throughout their stay in the states.

He notes that he will share all of his new experiences, on and off the field, when he returns home.

“By the end of the trip they realize that everyone else is just like them, they probably realize how fortunate they are to have each other,” said Sanneh.  “They don’t fall in love with the material things in Minnesota, they fall in love with the other families.”

To round out their trip to Minnesota, the boys will give help give back to one of the organizations that has given them so much: Feed My Starving Children, an international organization that provides food assistance around the world.  An integral part of Feed My Starving Children’s program in Haiti was that the players who went to school received a nutritious meal each day.

Before returning home, the boys will give back by helping the organization pack food, set to be used in similar operations by the organization.

And while these children will eventually return to the abject poverty of Cite Soleil, the Haitian Initiative’s konbit remains, bringing the global game of soccer to the people who need it most.

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Tag(s): July 12, 2013