With the Women’s World Cup now in full flight, most attention has gone to the venerable teams like France, Brazil and Germany. And, of course, to the two-time defending champion United States.
Hats off to all those teams, each talent-blessed and well-funded by their national soccer federations and by business conglomerates.
My heart is with and my eyes are on the scrappiest, most resilient underdog in this tournament. That would be Haiti. Les Grenadiers, as the team is affectionately known. The Soldiers.
Les Grenadiers represent a nation that has long struggled to heal the deep wounds left by colonialism and slavery. In large part because of the burdensome debt levied by France in exchange for its freedom, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Over the last 13 years, its citizens have endured deadly, devastating earthquakes and floods. Since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, vigilantes have taken up arms against gangs, and democracy has crumbled. In March, the United Nations called for an international peacekeeping force to help restore order.
Such instability forced Les Grenadiers to live and play outside Haiti during World Cup qualifying rounds. No matter. The team wove around every thorny roadblock and in February beat Chile, 2-1, to make it to the tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
There is no corporate support for this team. Yet hardship has a way of creating steely, tenacious spirit.