Hundreds of Haitians marched through the capital Saturday to protest the ouster of the country’s youth football squad from the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship in Jamaica for health reasons, the Associated Press reports.
The team’s players were given blood tests when they arrived in Jamaica earlier this month to compete in the tournament, which will determine the four CONCACAF teams to advance to the 2011 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Mexico this summer.
Several Haitian players were quarantined after at least two of them tested positive for malaria and others showed early symptoms including fever and headaches.
After the test results came back, Jamaica’s Ministry of Health recommended to CONCACAF officials earlier this week that the Haitian squad be forced to withdraw from the tournament for health reasons. The team had only played one of its scheduled matches, losing to Costa Rica 3-1. Most of the team was flown out of Jamaica on Wednesday.
In a statement, Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Kenneth Baugh said the government appreciates the “disappointment that this has caused, but the decision was unavoidable and necessary in order to safeguard public health.”
Malaria is transmitted exclusively through bites of Anopheles mosquitoes, according to the World Health Organization.
Yves Jean Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, said Saturday that the Haitian team was unjustly forced to withdraw from the tournament and called for FIFA to sanction Jamaica.
“This is an outrage. They think that all Haitians are diseased,” he said during the march, which drew about 1,500 people. “They have been training for two years, and now they’ve been eliminated. They want to play, they want to win. They forced us to leave, but we will keep practicing.”
Jhon Miky Benchy Estama, the Haitian team’s 16-year-old captain, said he was depressed by his experience in Jamaica, his first trip off the island of Hispaniola.
“We all felt very sad because we worked so hard to get there. I think it was very unfair,” he said as he gathered with his teammates after the protest broke up.
Magalie Comeau Denis, one of the organizers of the rally and special adviser to Haiti’s Ministry of Culture and Communication, said she planned to urge Haitians to boycott Jamaican products.
“We won’t allow Jamaica to humiliate us and especially our children,” she said. “It’s a matter of the stigmatization of Haiti.”
For the original report go to http://www.usatoday.com/sports/soccer/2011-02-19-264806107_x.htm