Haiti aims to gain more from CU17W experience

Haiti's Nerilia Mondesir (pictured) shields her Mexican marker during their CONCACAF Under-17 Women's Championship semifinal on November 11, 2016, in St. George's, Grenada. (Photo: Mexsport)

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada – After completing the group stage with a perfect 3W-0D-0L record, Haiti found itself in an unusual position against Mexico on Friday in the 2016 CONCACAF Under-17 Women’s Championship semifinals.

The Caribbean runner-up was already down 2-0 in just the 13th minute, marking the first time it faced a two-goal deficit in five CU17W matches. 

“The first 25 minutes, our players were mesmerized,” said Haiti head coach Shek Borkowski. 

Once Haiti adjusted to the magnitude of its first-ever semifinal appearance, it conceded only once more in a 3-0 setback. 

Borkowski was not necessarily surprised by those opening moments. He was philosophical while reflecting on the match and the tournament’s larger context. After all, Haiti had never won a CU17W game in six all-time outings heading into the 2016 edition. 

“For us, this competition is all about experience,” Borkowski remarked. “We get a chance to play against those teams (Mexico, Canada and the United States) and hopefully sponge up a little bit of what they’re doing, how they compete. 

“Once you come to play the U.S., Mexico, the player resources, the financial resources are a different level. It is difficult for countries like us to compete.” 

That’s what makes Haiti’s CU17W accomplishments even more impressive, regardless of any final score. 

“What we have done is progress for us, but playing against Mexico…you saw…there was a difference in terms of conditioning, in terms of size, in terms of their experience, in terms of their fighting spirit,” noted Borkowski, 53, who coached Russia’s Zvezda-2005 from 2009-10. “You can’t forget that, right now, U.S., Canada and Mexico have been in the World Cups at this level every year, so that experience is paying off for them.”

Haiti will gain even more experience on Sunday, when it faces Canada in the match for third place with a 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup berth at stake. The sides met in the group stage and the Haitians won 2-1 on a pair of late goals. 

“With third place comes qualification,” Borkowski finished. “I’m going to tell my girls that this is something we’re going for. We’re going to try to get third place, but it’s not going to be easy.” 

That’s OK. Win, draw or lose, Haiti will have benefitted and there’s the inlying value.