The Final Day in Gressier
We woke up bright and early, just as usual, for the day of games for the Respire Haiti Tournament. It was quite exciting as all three Respire teams were competing in the championship final for first prize. Every game was a thriller, including the women’s game which saw a late goal in the final minutes to win 2-1 against “the blanc’s” and other Respire girls players. The improvement from last year to this year was substantial. Two of the girls from the team were even invited to train and participate with the Haitian Women’s National team from their performance that game!
The boys of Respire really showed up to play as two of the three teams won their respected age group’s bracket to earn first place while the other team received second place. The U-13 final ended in a scoreless draw at the end of regulation to force penalty kicks. Due to the heroics of the Respire keeper who made two saves and Fenickson who made the winning PK, saw themselves the first awarded champion of the day. After came the U-15 final. They too went to a penalty kick shootout, prevailed, and became the next champion of the day. The last match of the tournament featured the U-17 final. This game brought hope of a first ever Respire sweep but came up just short as they lost 1-0. They fought valiantly despite being down a man the last 30 minutes of the game and for the fact that half of the opposing team were over the age of 21.
It was amazing to see the passion and commitment these players had for the game, their team, and themselves to play well. What most of us in the states would see as a small tournament, with only a hand full of teams, and Naperville Park District participation medals, We saw children having that moment in life they have all been dreaming about for their entire lives, scoring the game winning penalty kick to win the championship game and having EVERYONE in the entire stadium rush after and carry you above their heads. A moment they will have and look back on for the rest of their lives. We brought opportunity to those the rest of the world wrote off and never gave a chance. We even saw the agony of defeat as those who had the moment unfortunately slipped through their finger-tips, but you could see the determination within them get back to work and get better for the following year.
These lessons learned and moments made was the ultimate goal of this entire trip and to see that we succeeded has brought us as much hope and joy for us as a team as it did for them. We now rest up and pack up as we are off bright and early tomorrow morning to New Life orphanage in Port-au-Prince to see old friends.
The Final Day in Gressier