Haiti: International football’s real impossible job

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, Sebastien Migne (right) was assistant to Rigobert Song for Cameroon’s 2022 World Cup and 2024 Africa Cup of Nations campaigns.

  • author, Emma Smith
  • Role, BBC Sport journalist

When Graham Taylor was England manager, the documentary crew referred to his role as an “impossible mission”. Sébastien Mini smiles wryly when asked if he holds a position that truly deserves that title.

Mene is the new coach of Haiti, taking the team to the Men’s World Cup for the first time in half a century.

It’s a challenge made all the more difficult by the political and social chaos sweeping the Caribbean island, meaning it’s unlikely Minnie will be able to set foot there for the foreseeable future.

The gangs now control much of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and prevented Prime Minister Ariel Henry from returning to the country after a foreign trip, leading to his resignation. BBC News Report that parts of the country have become virtually lawless.

Haiti has been plagued by gang violence for years, but violence committed by armed groups escalated in late February.

While the gangs have said their main goal is to overthrow Henry, violence continues. They attacked police, looted universities and libraries, burned pharmacies, and forced the largest hospital in Port-au-Prince to close.

So why did Migne decide to manage their national football team?

“Honestly, I have a lot of enthusiasm,” the 51-year-old Frenchman told BBC Sport. “It’s not the best decade of my life, but it’s important at this time.

“The project is interesting, Haiti has a good past in football. The idea is to write a new story with the players, and we have a great opportunity because the United States, Canada and Mexico have already qualified.” [as joint-hosts].

“They know exactly what we want to do, which is to qualify for the World Cup.”

The three North American countries will co-host the 2026 World Cup, which will be the first to include 48 teams. In addition to the host country, three other teams from the CONCACAF region will qualify, and two more continental qualifiers will compete for more places.

This opens the door for Haiti to reach the men’s World Cup finals for the first time since 1974, when it reached the finals in West Germany. They lost all three of their group stage matches, conceding 14 goals to Argentina, Italy and Poland.

“Some friends told me you were completely crazy.”

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, Haiti has been torn apart by gang violence and civil war in recent months

Their long road to the finals begins in the first two stages of Concacaf qualifiers, with an opening match against Saint Lucia on 6 June.

The Haiti match was supposed to be at home, but that is currently out of the question. Saint Lucia’s match will be played in Barbados, and Migne doesn’t know what will happen next – either where they will play or who they will be playing for.

“It is difficult, because it is impossible for me to go to Haiti to discover new talents, and to have complete trust in the local coaches to provide me with full information,” he says.

“For example, I tried to convince one of the players to come with us for the upcoming matches. We needed administrative papers, but all embassies in the country are closed.”

Meaney is used to the element of chaos, with coaching roles in Syria on his CV. He is a veteran of management in Africa, and his previous jobs include with the national team of Congo, Kenya and Equatorial Guinea.

But he has tasted World Cup glory before, as Cameroon’s assistant coach at Qatar 2022.

While Cameroon did not exit the group stage. They stunned Brazil 1-0 in their final match – a result that lit a fire in him to return to the biggest show on Earth.

“Of course, some friends said to me, ‘You’re absolutely crazy,'” he says. “Maybe that’s true, but I believe in the project. I think we can create a big surprise. We have the quality.”

Klopp fan in Haiti’s hot seat

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, Haiti last played in a Men’s World Cup in 1974, where they lost 4-1 to Argentina in their final group match, having also lost 7-0 to Poland.

Since his appointment on March 10, Meaney has worked hard to make the most of a difficult assignment. Haiti drew 1-1 with French Guiana in his first match as coach, and he has since set his coaches and scouts to scour the world for talent.

One of the main roles of a manager of a small national team is to convince players qualified by family and heritage to represent those countries. Migne has reached out to Wolves striker Janrekner Bellegarde – born in France but of Haitian descent – ​​and Hull City winger Jaden Viljoen about potential call-ups.

“Step by step we try to communicate with them to present the project and convince them,” says Minnie. “It’s a long process.”

As a fan of English football, Migne has a special interest in impressing English players. He spoke to BBC Sport while wearing a Liverpool jacket and told of his admiration for Jurgen Klopp.

“After leading Haiti to the World Cup, I want to coach in the Premier League or the Championship, and I would love to do that,” he says.

But before that, Mini must try to somehow guide underdog, war-torn Haiti to the World Cup.

Is this his real, impossible job?

“it’s not [impossible]. “It’s interesting.”

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