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Soccer Helps Haiti Earthquake Amputees Heal

An American sports quote says "Pain is nothing compared to what it feels like to quit." You are about to meet some Haitian soccer players who know a little about both. The Haiti amputee soccer team is made up of many who lost legs and arms during the 2010 earthquake.

At times, it doesn't look like a regular soccer field. It is someone's desperate home. It is not a manicured pitch - cattle sometimes saunter by - but the players are not regular soccer players, either.

They kick with the same leg they stand on. Goalies play with the only arm they have. These are members of Haiti's amputee soccer teams - men and women who lost limbs, almost all during the earthquake in 2010.

A balcony collapsed on Judith Facile. She had two choices: amputation or death. Soccer soothes her pain.

"Now I feel like I'm alive," said Facile. "Because, before that, after I lost my leg, I didn't have any hope for the future, even though I was walking on crutches."

And, they are a sight to behold. Beyond the normal bounds of balance. Team president Cedieu Fortilus says the players have changed the entire country's attitude about the disabled.

"When I see they are playing like that I'm so proud. I'm so proud," said Fortilus. "I think I'm doing a good job. I see so many people, even Haitian, even if they are crossing the street, they take time to look at them because they are doing something very strange. Something many Haitians have never seen in their life."

Off their crutches, they tend to blend in.

Each player is fitted with a state-of-the-art prosthetic for home use. Every centimeter of it is designed to mimic a real leg. Legs like these cost about $50,000 in the U.S. Here in Haiti, they are free."

Several private, non-profit organizations in the United States fund the team and prosthetics for all Haitians who need them.

The team name, Zaryen, is Creole for tarantula, a spider that can function without a limb.

"Soccer has taught me to do a lot of things on one leg that I wasn't used to doing before. I feel comfortable when I'm playing," noted player Cindy Orange.

Team Zaryen is showing the world not what its players can't do without two legs, but what they can do with just one.

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    Carolyn Presutti

    Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous Associated Press TV, Radio, and Multimedia awards, as well as a Clarion for her TV coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.