On Wednesday, the US women's under-17 team defeated Haiti 9-0 in their first qualifying match for the CONCACAF U-17 Women's Championships in Costa Rica.
Once the final whistle blew, Haitian goalkeeper Alexandra Coby was so overwhelmed with emotion that she dropped to the pitch, weeping. It was all just too much for her and understandably so - losing by such a harsh margin, even to a much better team, is always difficult to take, but given that Haiti is in the midst of trying to recover from the devastating earthquake that ravaged the Caribbean nation's capital two months ago and left hundreds of thousands of people dead, there was much more saddling these girls than just a lost game.
And the US team saw that. As Haiti's coach helped the crying goalkeeper to her feet, US goalie Bryane Heaberlin walked the length of the pitch, gave Coby a hug and didn't let go. The rest of the US team soon joined her, circling around the two goalkeepers for a long group hug that left the entire squad in tears.
Said Heaberlin to USsoccer.com:
"I saw her crying and that was pretty hard for me to see. She's a 'keeper and we have that bond. I knew that she had probably lost people close to her, and when she goes home she might not have anywhere to go. I gave her a big hug and told her she did great. She came to compete in this tournament despite all that she's been through and I have tremendous respect for her."
Haiti's participation in the tournament despite all that's going on back home for them has been the talk of the competition and the team's determination and bravery hasn't been lost on their opponents. Added US defender Olivia Brannon:
"It just put everything into perspective. It makes you realise what is truly important, your family, having a roof over your head, and having food on the table. We take all those things for granted. I had my mom in the stands cheering for me tonight. Some of these girls might never have that again."
So while the match itself may have seemed like piling on, it should be pointed out that the US team didn't pander to their Haitian counterparts, instead showing them the respect of playing hard the whole game before sharing their true feelings and consolations after the final whistle. And these young Haitian girls will hopefully go back knowing that they're not alone.
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