« If it weren’t for the help of my parents and some relatives, me and several other players might have been part of a gang », a player in the second division tells AyiboPost
They’re not on leave, nor are they injured, but for more than two years now, players in Haiti’s soccer leagues have been in a state of « prolonged unemployment ».
This situation is tied to the fact that the Haitian national championship has been suspended since May 2021 due to the insecurity plaguing the country, particularly the Haitian capital. Faced with this reality, several players in the first and second divisions of the Haitian championship spoke to AyiboPost about their situation.
« Soccer is our only activity and our only profession. If it wasn’t for the help of my parents and certain relatives, I and several other players might have been part of a gang, » says Grégory Cherilus, a player with Vision de Hinche in the second division.
This situation is tied to the fact that the Haitian national championship has been suspended since May 2021 due to the insecurity plaguing the country, particularly the Haitian capital.
While Grégory Cherilus lives off of his parents’ charity, Jimmy Ordena, a player on the Tempête de Saint Marc team, dabbles in credit, lending money to individuals for a profit.
« I collaborate with my mother in her business, » Cherilus reveals to AyiboPost. « I also lend money to merchants. In return, they pay me back with interest, » he explains.
While the championship is on hold, most teams suspend payments. “Vacation championships” (championnats de vacances) remain the players’ main alternative during this period of dysfunction.
« The ‘vacation championships’ are precious to me, not only for the money from the teams, but also for the donations made by fans for the goals scored, » says Anderson Nalien, who spent around two years in Brazil in the VIVA Rio program. « As far as player payments are concerned, contracts are not respected, especially in the provincial clubs, where these structures live from day to day, » adds the player.
The ‘vacation championships’ are precious to me, not only for the money from the teams, but also for the donations made by fans for the goals scored.
Contacted by AyiboPost, Jean Yves Bernard, president of America des Cayes, says he is aware of the situation. His team is unable to pay the players. « There are no matches, no sponsors, it’s difficult to pay the players in these conditions, » Bernard justifies himself before adding: « the players are practically free to sign wherever they want. »
Violette AC continues to pay its players, despite the threat of vacation championships. Speaking on a program on AyiboSport, Webens Precimé (Itala), technical director of Violette AC, clarified that the 2022 Caribbean Tournament Champion pays its players regularly. « Violette stays current with its players by going as far as paying thirteen months out of twelve, » says Precimé. « If a player does not respect our agreement by playing in vacation leagues, he will be sanctioned, » added the former Haitian international.
According to Nathan Laguerre, a lawyer specializing in sports law, players’ payments depend on their contracts with clubs.
“If it is an employment contract by nature, the clubs cannot pay the players, because it is an exchange of salary in exchange for services rendered,” argues Laguerre.
“Vacation championships » remain the players’ main alternative in this time of dysfunction.
However, the players are not working at the moment. This brings us back to the scenario where contracts are strictly enforced. « Normally, the clubs have to pay the players, because they are not responsible for stopping the championship, » Nathan Laguerre points out.
The national championship’s hiatus has had a serious impact on Haitian soccer at a regional level. The Confederation of North America, Central America and the Caribbean has decided to bar all Haitian clubs from its regional competitions. According to CONCACAF, this decision was taken in view of the fact that « the Haitian league did not start any soccer activities in 2022 and has not yet resumed the championship ».
Violette AC, champions of the Caribbean tournament in 2022 and quarter-finalists in the 2023 CONCACAF Champions League, will not be able to defend their place in either of these competitions for the 2023-2024 edition.
The Confederation of North America, Central America and the Caribbean has decided to bar all Haitian clubs from its regional competitions.
The Jamaican and Dominican clubs are the main beneficiaries of this sanction, because they obtain an additional place that was previously reserved for Haitian clubs.
At the same time, Haitian soccer teams rely on expatriates to play in international competitions and friendly matches. Most of the players selected in the men’s team play for a club outside of the country. On the list of 23 players selected for the 2023 Gold Cup, only Violette player Steven Sabba played in Haiti.
This is also the case with the women’s team. Among the 23 players selected during the last Women’s World Cup, only Esthericove Joseph was affiliated with a Haitian club.
To date, it is difficult to say when the Haitian national championships will resume. Insecurity is in full swing in the Haitian capital and the FHF has yet to reach an agreement with the clubs despite several attempts at a meeting.
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Roberto Baggio Louima and Elyvans Dejean, two Viollette AC players, continue their careers on loan in the Dominican Republic. Anderson Nalien didn’t have this opportunity because he didn’t have the necessary connections, he says.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the Haitian championship, Nalien sets a different goal: “like many Haitians, I am waiting for the email from the ‘Biden Program’ with the hope that my life can change.”
English translation by Sarah Jean.
© Cover image : freepik
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