The Special Olympics World Summer Games Athens 2011 played host to amazing moments of strength, perseverance and triumph. Despite recovering from natural disasters and dealing with political turmoil, countries like Japan, Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Libya and Syria still travelled to Greece and participated in competitions. Read the inspiring story below about Team Haiti’s journey and experiences in Athens, written by Jean Chevalier Sanon, Head of Delegation for Team Haiti.
From the devastating earthquake of January 12th, 2010, Haiti will rise again.
Haiti was granted the slot of football 5 Aside in order to take part in the SO world Games 2011 in Greece. However, since then the challenges started, because 1) most persons with intellectual deficiencies are not registered as a citizen in Haiti; 2) Due the social economic crisis, it is very difficult to put together a football team and develop a team spirit; 3) It takes approximately 3 to 6 months to complete all legal papers for any Haitian citizen; 4) All sport delegation must be granted the authorization to leave the country by the minister of Sports; 5) and finally we have to cope with the health conditions and technical capacities of the athletes so that they can be physically and mentally prepared to compete.
Our training program was planned for three times a week for the football team. Initially, the team started with ten members; however, was reduced to seven due to the unavailability of official papers for the passports.
On Wednesday June 2nd, we dedicated the day to securing visas for the trip; however, our car got broken into and all seven passports were stolen. A few days later, after filling out paperwork to get new passports, one of our athletes was on a talk show talking about the rights of persons with disabilities and a stranger who had found the passports in the streets heard him and returned the passports.
Unfortunately we still had to secure our travel visas and by this time we only had two days left before we left because the Haitian delegation was invited to travel on the same plane with Team USA. After lots of back and forth at the Embassies, finally, at 11 AM on Friday, we were told to come pick up our visas. Team Haiti was a success.
The Team flew to Miami on Saturday afternoon and arrived to transit in Baltimore. Finally, Team Haiti reached Greece by transiting at Rhodes as their host town and then Athens for a happy ending from the athletes’ experiences and testimonies as explained below.
On June 26th – 27th, the Team went to the divisioning process, playing against Canada and Paraguay before the competition so that they can be placed in their specific pool. Haiti was categorized into the E group which comprised: Isle of Man, Malta, Italy, Haiti. From 28th of June to July 1st the team had four games – one against Isle of Man, one against Malta and two games against Italy.
At the very beginning of the games the athletes were amazed by seeing so many balls and football courts. They were mostly exploring the environment of the games and also observing the behavior of the other teams. And each time a female Guide came to congratulate them for being present, they looked at her and said that she was beautiful.
On the field of play, the athletes were a little impressed by the environment and still could not realized that they were participating in an international football event. The athletes testified that they have experienced a dream moment in their life. They could not imagine that the outside world was like that. After each game they were invited to go to the pool and take a little walk in the neighbor. Also, the opening and the closing ceremony have captured their imagination and remains a fantasy in their memory.
Haiti competed in 5-a-side football with team members Moise Ulysse Charles, Paolo Lorensky Hercule, Peterson Leo, Gedeon Macean, Jamesley Philippe Pierre and Wooldy Poulard. The team placed 4th in division E.