Six months after an earthquake devastated their nation, the Haitian National Women’s Under 17 soccer team reunited to play in the Disney Cup International youth soccer tournament at the place “where dreams come true.”
With the support of members of the U.S. Women’s Under 17 team and the Many Hearts, One Goal project, the team of 21 girls and six staff traveled to Central Florida to compete among nearly 200 elite soccer clubs. The international event was held at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World July 12-17.
Sixteen-year-old U.S. goalie Bryane Heaberlin first met the team at the World Cup qualifiers in April. The Haitian girls talent, dedication and personal tragedies left such a strong impression that Heaberlin decided to take action. She created Many Hearts, One Goal with the lofty goal of giving the Haitian team the support and resources to compete in future soccer games.
“I hope they realize they can accomplish their dreams and not to give up,” Heaberlin said in a recent interview at ESPN Wide World of Sports. “There still is a hope for their lives.”
During the Disney Cup International, the Haitian team competed in five games against athletes from across Florida, including the Clearwater Chargers, Heaberlin’s hometown soccer team. While visiting, the Haitian team practiced together for the first time in months, and spent time with U.S. Women’s National star Abby Wambach. The team found time to kick the soccer ball around with Mickey Mouse during an entertaining and fun visit to the Magic Kingdom.
For the young athletes, it’s a welcome opportunity to be normal teenagers and play the sport they love. “It’s more than a competition; I think it’s life changing,” said head coach Gaspard Dalaxis, who believes their time here wasn’t just about playing soccer – “it’s about coming together again and being happy.”
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