mercredi 20 avril 2011

Football Fanatics

Last Saturday I had a great time watching the Haitian National Soccer Team play against Harvard University men’s soccer team in a friendly demonstration match.  Boston Haitians came out in droves for this event to support the Haitian national team.  Over 11,000 (that’s more than ¼ of MA’s Haitian population!) were present and made sure our presence was felt, erupting into screams, yells, laughter, cheers and claps at different moments throughout.  To add to the festive atmosphere a live rara band regaled us with horns and drumming from the stands.  The level of enthusiasm was reminiscent of a World Cup Game. Prior to the match there was a deejay spinning the latest konpa tracks, Haitian delicacies to enjoy, and booths selling  t-shirts and other types of paraphanellia for loyal fanatics. The event was hosted by Partners in Health as a fundraising effort to assist in ongoing post earthquake relief and reconstruction efforts.   Haiti’s team won the game in penalty kicks 4-1. 

The event really had me thinking about the power of football as a cultural unifier and signifier as well as the particularly Haitian passion for the game.  Indeed the Haitian fervor for football is ubiquitous.  For many years Haiti was the first team in the Caribbean to qualify for the World Cup and although teams have performed dismally sense, nothing could diminish the love of the game for Haitians at home and abroad.  As we are reminded every four years when the World Cup happens football is by far the most loved sport in the world.  Or, as David Goldblatt reminds us in his book The Ball is Round, "there may be no cultural practice more global than soccer."  Likewise academics like Laurent Dubois have weighed in on the importance of soccer as a not only a global phenomenon, but also one that is particularly useful for parsing out the dynamics of empire and postcolonial politics in his book Soccer Empire:  The World Cup and The Future of France.  Sports in general can serve as cultural markers of belonging help to foster solidarity, and promote awareness about different causes as the match on Saturday clearly indicated.  What was most encouraging for me was to witness this level of enthusiasm and passion not only in the context of the game, but in terms of the force of this particular community’s love for Haiti.  Granted, I am not the biggest sports fan (please don't judge me too harshly), but what moved me more than the match itself was the joyful spirit of those in attendance.   --RMJC

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