Driving rain and chilly temperatures did little to dampen the enthusiasm of 1,200 spectators as the Harvard men’s soccer team took on the Haiti National Team in a benefit match Sunday at Harvard Stadium. Thanks to a late goal from Hiroki Kobayashi ’14, the Crimson prevailed over Les Grenadiers, 1-0, in a spirited game that featured good play on both sides and tremendous support from the largely pro-Haitian crowd.
“Soccer is a global sport and is in a sense a global language,” said Harvard coach Carl Junot. “Not myself or many from our team speak French Creole, but on Saturday evening we shared a wonderful meal in Winthrop House with the Haitians. It’s fantastic that so many Haitian-Americans feel comfortable coming to our campus, supporting their national team, providing our student athletes such a great experience and also providing financial relief back to Haiti.”
The second annual match was part of Haiti Leve (Haiti Rising), a fundraiser benefiting the Haitian Football Federation and Partners In Health, a global health care organization founded in part by Professor Paul Farmer of Harvard Medical School (HMS). Partners In Health continues to assist in the rebuilding of Haiti’s health care system following the devastating earthquake that struck the country in January 2010.
Last year’s match (under much better conditions) drew more than 11,500 and raised about $16,000 as Harvard and Haiti played to a 0-0 draw, with Haiti winning on penalty kicks in overtime.
“These games represent a fantastic opportunity for our student athletes on the field as well as for the University as a whole,” said Timothy W. Wheaton, associate director of Harvard Athletics. “Harvard is a large presence in the Cambridge and Boston community and these games represent an opportunity for an important part of that community to come to campus, share a fantastic sporting experience, and support good causes in Partners In Health, Coaches Across Continents, and the two football federations. It is exciting to see the varied groups that came together to make this happen — the team, the Athletics Department, the University, Mayor Menino’s office, and, most importantly, the local Cape Verdean and Haitian communities. We hope it is something we can continue going forward.”
The Haiti match was the second in a two-match charity series. On Friday, Harvard took on a team of Cape Verde all-stars to benefit the Cape Verdean Football Federation and Coaches Across Continents, an organization founded by former Harvard player Nick Gates ’91 that focuses on encouraging social development through soccer in impoverished countries. The Crimson battled to a 1-1 draw in regulation before losing, 7-6, on penalty kicks.
Harvard worked with leaders in the local Cape Verdean and Haitian communities to promote the matches, donating a good number of tickets to youth soccer players and also inviting them to take place in pre-game and on-field activities.