Saturday, June 12, 2010

World Cup - Haitian style!

Haiti's national sport is soccer. Haiti has a national soccer team (although about 50 people connected with the team, players, coaches, refs, etc, perished in the earthquake) and they were in the World Cup Finals in 1974. Often, as you speed down paved roads or bump your way into the city, you will see groups of kids playing soccer in makeshift fields, no matter how hot, smelly or dirty the conditions. So it is not surprising that World Cup fever has gripped Haiti.

FIFA calendars are floating around everywhere, and you can be sure everyone is up for those 6:30 am games. Brazil seems to be most people's favorite here, followed closely by Argentina. At the hotel where i am staying, they have set up a flat screen tv near the reception desk, the largest tv I have seen yet in Haiti. Guests, staff and the owners can be found there, lounging around as the commentary rings out in English. As I zipped my way on various errands earlier today, I could hear commentary in Creole blaring out from radios everywhere (obviously most do not have access to a tv here). Every few buildings, you could see masses of people huddled in darkened doorways, trying to hear what's happening.

I caught a glimpse of the game on the flat screen today before heading out to watch the game with my friend Fredo.He has been mentioning to me that he goes everyday to the radio station to talk about soccer (apparently he knows everything there is to know about the sport) and he invited me and my new Canadian friend, Marilyn, to watch a game at the radio station. This sounded like too much fun to pass up. I envisioned a group of people watching another flat screen while drinking beer and discussing all things soccer. But, like everything else here, the experience was nearly the opposite but probably twice as much fun.

It turns out that this radio station is one of 4 in the area commenting on the games, but is the most popular. We climbed steep stairs to find ourselves in a tiny little room with an old-school tv in the corner (the kind with a giant panel and rabbit ears sticking out)....this room was hot and crowded. The guys made room for us by insisting we sit down, forcing half of them to stand for the game. There was a tiny fan in the corner that didn't reach everyone and pretty soon you could smell the sweat and feel it dripping down. The England/US game started as we got there and the guys took microphones and started commenting. It suddenly dawned on me that one of the voices i heard blaring out of lotto stands and barber shops and banks all morning was none other than Fredo's. As we watched the sketchy reception on the crappy tv, with the image winking in and out, Fredo and a couple of his friends gave colourful commentary in Creole, one of them writing down on a paper the names and player numbers, trying to look up facts to add to the commentary, the other two passing the microphone back and forth as their voices tired out..... a far cry from fancy tv studios broadcasting the games around the world. Fredo made sure to keep mentioning his friends in the studio, most notably Marilyn and myself (and incidentally he announced to the city of Jacmel that he is my Creole teacher and that by the end of the World Cup,Ii would be in the studio giving commentary in Creole alongside him!). By halfway through the game, the beer and rum was flowing, and the rest of the guys had taken up chanting our names and making us promise to watch all the games with them.....In my wildest imagination, I couldn't have dreamt up a World Cup game like this. But I have to say, despite fuzzy reception and being hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable, I am a big fan of the World Cup - Haitian style!

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