by Roxane Kerby, Le Nouvelliste
On Sunday, August 3, 2014, history was made in San Francisco, California, as Team Haiti beat the USA to win the San Francisco International Polo Classic. A huge crowd of polo fans and neophytes witnessed Team Haiti emerge victorious the first time it participates in an international tournament.
Team Haiti defeated a strong Argentinean Team 8 to 5 on Saturday, Aug. 2 to advance to the championship round.
“It was an extremely competitive match.Once we actually realized we had won everyone was on Cloud 9 and super excited to make it to the finals. Francisco is funny he kept singing I Love to be #1 in the Player’s Lounge,” says Claude-Alix Bertrand, Team Haiti’s Captain.
On Sunday, the game began as Jessie Menos, Secretary of State at the Haitian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Industries, throws the first ball and immediately thereafter “I got it in the throw-in passed it to Peter Laughlin, who passed it to Francisco Pizarro and he scored the 1st goal in 35 seconds. It’s great to get a goal in this early; it gets in your opponents head, which is always key. It is a statement that you are here to win. It puts the opponent in a defensive position which is always bad for them. Haiti beat the USA by a score of 6 to 2.
“When they played the Haitian National Anthem, I couldn’t hold back the tears, I was overwhelmed with emotions. First I’m so grateful that the angels, the wind, and the energy were with us throughout this last week, I will treasure this win forever, I shall never forget what it felt like to raise the trophy with my team mates. To be in position where I get to do what I love and at the same time bring a positive image of my country is more than a dream come true,” Bertrand says,his voice full of emotion.
“It gave me a new and rare opportunity to give Haiti a face in the sport. I worked hard with POLO SF to get Haiti (a new team) in the right bracket and accepted in international tournaments,” shares Bertrand. “My goal is to promote the growth of tourism in Haiti’s rebirth, and to give Haiti a face, a root in polo the Sport of Kings.”
Once the team was established the process of putting together the team began. “Selecting a team is tricky, talent, ability, position, and injuries have to be considered among other things, but first and foremost is trust and belief in each other. As one plays in different tournaments with different players the natural chemistry and respect amongst team mates happens effortlessly. I knew I wanted Francisco Pizarro, as our #3, I also knew I wanted Akin Sotomi for our #2 based on how well we play together, I was not sure who would play #4. Peter Laughlin’s name was at the top of the list but we were not sure if he was available. Once he agreed, we were all thrilled.
And it all paid off as Team Haiti wins its first championship and earns a spot in the Sport of Kings.
“We will train and prepare for the next big tournament which will take place in Cordoba, Argentina in September,” Bertrand shares. Haiti’s flag flew proudly in the lush gardens of the Cerro Pampa Polo Fields not only did team Haiti win the championship, Menos won the hat contest.