The FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa marks the first time the African Continent will host a World Cup. This is great for Africa. Unfortunately, the first black republic in the Western Hemisphere won’t take part in this great event because they didn’t qualify. Nonetheless, the Republic of Haiti did come up as a story in this year’s World Cup headlines surrounding the opening game matchup between USA and England on June 12 in Johannesburg.
The story and connection to Haiti goes back to the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. In 1950, a Haitian went to participate in the biggest football tournament in the world—in a sport that still remains arguably the greatest sport ever played, since the majority of the world still plays it. In the 1950 World Cup, England was one of the biggest contenders in that competition. (As a side note, though England claims to have invented the game of football, we know the Indians of the new continent used to play it long ago. But let’s say that England invented the rules and the name, not the game. Oh well!)
At any rate, England was scheduled to play against the USA, which wasn’t a good team at all, making England the favorite to win this important game (since they were already huge favorites in the tournament). Consider the historic aspect of it. The US wasn’t sure if they would be able to hold on to that game at all, and yet, the first half ended scoreless. In the second half, the game went on scoreless until the US called upon the great Joe Gaetjens to give them a hand. They knew this Haitian possessed talent, but didn’t realize his potential to upset one of the world’s most powerful countries of that era. With 15 minutes remaining in the game, Haiti made history as Joe Gaetjens, a Haitian native of Port-au-Prince (the city that recently made headlines around the world for being destroyed by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake) scored the only goal in that game to make the US victorious over the mighty England of Bobby Charlton, Garry Lineker, and David Beckham, amongst many others.
Will the US upset England again in this historic World Cup of 2010, held in the South Africa of the great Nelson Mandela, with the participation of Jozy Altidor, the son of two Haitian parents, Joseph and Giselle? Are we able to tie history together a little bit more, since it so often repeats itself in such incredible ways, when we consider the real name of Joe Gaetjens is Joseph Edouard Gaetjens, and Jozy Altidor’s father is Joseph? Fate or destiny aside, we’ll see if Haiti will once again be part of that football history between England and the US.
A big thanks to Mark Berg, an American who worked in Haiti in the beginning of the 80’s in the Kenscoff Area. He is one of my coworkers who came to my desk and asked me if I knew about Joe Gaetjens and encouraged me to write this short piece about him before the World Cup and especially, before the US vs. England game.