Soccer  > General Soccer  > Haitian Women's U-17 delight Disney
July 15, 2010, 04:59 PM
By Scott Gleba

Thanks to Walt Disney World and the benevolence of a member of the US Women's Under 17-team, the Haitian Under-17 Women's squad is competing in the Disney Cup International Youth Soccer Tournament, July 12-17, at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Haiti and the team were ravaged by the colossal earthquake that struck on January 12. Six months later, the country is still fighting valiantly to recover, but the U17s are among the nearly 200 elite participants from across the globe who made their way to Disney.

Clubs featuring boys and girls (ages 9-17) from nations as far away as England, Brazil, Malaysia and Mexico are part of the biggest field in the tournament's 12-year history.

"This year's field is one of the most diverse and largest we've had in our tournament's history," said the event's tournament director Mark Luster. "The Disney Cup continues to be a great opportunity for teams from around the world to compete against other top young athletes while also getting to relax and enjoy a vacation at Disney."

Even though their coach and family members were victims of the earthquake, the Haitian team somehow summoned the courage to travel last March to Costa Rica for the CONCACAF Under-17 Women's Championship. Despite, losing 9-0 to the USA in their opening match, both teams made global news with their moving interaction afterwards.

When the final whistle blew, Haitian goalkeeper Alexandra Colby crumple to the ground in tears and emotional exhaustion. In a demonstration of genuine compassion, US goalkeeper Bryane Heaberlin approached Colby and gave her a warm hug. Soon after, the entire American squad joined in, creating a memorable and inspiring moment that captured the world's attention.

Following its three group games, the team returned to Haiti, where life continues to be extremely difficult.

This is where Heaberlin, 17, re-entered the picture.

"That (the hug with Colby) just really impacted me and I thought I needed to help them in any way I could," Heaberlin told Fox 13 TV in Tampa. "So I started brainstorming and that night, me and my family came up with the idea to try and bring them here."

As a result, Heaberlin created a the Many Hearts One Goal foundation, which gave her a vehicle to raise money and bring the Haitian players to her home state of Florida.

As fate would have it, Heaberlin was called to the US team currently playing at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Germany. And though she won't be with the Haitian U-17 team in body, she undoubtedly will be in spirit.


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