Koup di Mond (The World Cup)
By Brian Jensen, Haiti Outreach Intern
We heard it a good 3 seconds before we saw it. Gooooooooaaaaalllll!!! We jumped out of our chairs well before the lagging TV caught up to the radio. Argentina with the goal! The 18 people in the 100 square foot room all jumped and cheered, bumping each other with every motion. All across the country this scene was being played out as if Haiti itself had won the match.
Right now, Haitian soccer loyalties, like the island it sits on, are split between 2 countries. As unlikely as it may sound, Haitians are fans of either Argentina or Brazil. No one that I ask has been able to explain exactly why this is, but it is this way across the country. When asked why they aren’t rooting for Haiti, everyone that I’ve talked to says the exact same thing: “Well I would pick Haiti over Brazil (or Argentina) if they played against each other, but since at the moment they’re not, so I’m a Brazil (or Argentina) fan.” Haiti did not qualify for the World Cup this year so they don’t have to worry about conflicting allegiances. The games where either Brazil or Argentina are playing have the most intense following, so I make a point of being present to watch those matches. I always claim that I am a fan of “the other team” being cheered by the majority of the crowd. Being the lone opposing team fan is hard at times, but allows for some very interesting conversations.
We watch the matches on 18” CRT televisions, while packed 20 to a room. The mix of heat, smell, and constant contact with other people’s legs and arms is assuaged by the dulling effect of the bottomless glass of “Cremas”. The highly alcoholic drink with a questionable taste is basically a mix of moonshine (called “claren”, made from sugar cane and often made into rum), condensed milk and lemon Kool-Aid. The host says it helps you get into the game. And people are very into the game. In excruciating and also slightly comical detail, a woman that has barely ever played soccer and probably never kept up on the teams is now telling me exactly why Argentina is losing. “Everyone is an expert”. This saying holds true in many areas of Haitian life, but none so much as soccer.
In a riveting game even the most inept soccer observer subconsciously senses the change in momentum of the game and the other observers around them. This produces an ebb and flow in the moods and conversations of the 20 people around me. I prefer the ebbs to the flows because they allow for more in-depth conversation. Instead of yelling the same phrases at the screen repeatedly, we talk about what each team needs to score to advance to the next round.
Many places charge about 20 cents USD (10 Haitian gourdes) for the entry to watch the game. Houses with electricity and a TV turn into a small business. I didn’t bring my wallet. Luckily my neighbors don’t charge to watch the game at their place.
The TV goes blank and the Haitian announcer explains that Radio Tele Pignon (RTP) is having technical problems (for the 4th time this match). In unison everyone lets out a breathy “Aghhh.” This lapse in coverage results in the first silence in about 30 minutes. People shuffle in their seats or check their cellphone. Some people strike up the often repeated tally of who beat who to show that they have been following closely.
Then it’s on again. The announcer talks faster, as if trying to make up for lost time. My Kreyol is improving but the speed of the announcer renders his speech “Greek” to me.
The next day at work everyone talks about the Argentina game. They either goad or shrink away as someone points out that their team lost. For me, as the lone fan of Spain, there’s been no end to the ridicule of Spain being the first to get knocked out of the World Cup.
The din of the World Cup games blends in with the background of Haiti, for now – until the next game!