Haitian national team defender Esthericove Joseph is in Australia as she video chats with her family back home.
The connection is choppy. But Joseph’s mom and cousin, Jornadie, get a few last words in before the connection drops: “Grenadye Alaso!”
The phrase is more than a Haitian battle cry. It’s a message of pride from Joseph’s immediate family and entire soccer family GOALS Haiti as they follow one of their own compete in the country’s first-ever Women’s World Cup.
That intimate moment and more are captured in the short film “Footsteps,” that has been released on August 2 by Naomi Osaka’s production company Hana Kuma. It offers a fresh perspective on how Joseph and the rest of Les Grenadiers are creating a blueprint for girls back home, especially Jornadie who is a few years younger than her cousin.
“The pride that is felt in Haiti toward their historic debut at the Women’s World Cup is felt throughout the country, and especially so for young girls who are inspired to follow their lead,” says GOALS Haiti Executive Director Kathy McAllister. “What’s even more special is when you see three alumni who started in our program, like Joseph, proudly represent their country. That makes a huge impact on our girls, and we’re very grateful that Hana Kuma wanted to share such a story to the rest of the world.”
The film project is set in Destra, just outside Leogane west of the capital Port-au-Prince. The rural village is one of the three sites where the nonprofit GOALS (Global Outreach And Love of Soccer) runs its soccer and educational programs with the aim to develop youth leaders. It’s also the soccer origins of Joseph and her two fellow World Cup teammates Bethina Petit-Frere and Nahomie Ambroise. Their beginnings mirror that of the film’s main character Jornadie, who was selected to Haiti’s Youth National Team.
“My advice for you is continue to work hard. There is a tournament that is coming up for you, soon you will join your team. Do not give up,” Joseph tells Jornadie in a call.
As the film follows Jornadie on a typical day at a GOALS soccer session, it portrays the contrary of a rigorous training camp. There’s laughter and smiles during drills and a local female coach leading a team chant.
“Working in rural Haiti, there are not many to any opportunities for girls to engage in sport,” McAllister says. “For the majority of participants in our programs, when they come to GOALS it is their first chance to play soccer.
“Their love of the game and dedication has created an entire strong region for girl’s football. Having three GOALS alumni – Esthericove Jospeh, Bethina Petit Frere, Nahomie Ambriose – in the Women’s World Cup representing Haiti and coming from the villages where we work is such a powerful message of hope and pride.”
The film is close to the heart of Naomi Osaka, who has Haitian roots and through her philanthropic arm Play Academy partners with grassroots community organizations such as GOALS that use sport to change girls’ lives.
“When I created Hana Kuma, it was to be able to create and elevate stories like these,” the multi-Grand Slam tennis champion says. “It is incredible to watch this debutant team in the World Cup, but it’s even more amazing to know the power of what they’re inspiring back home.
“We wanted to change the narrative that surrounds Haiti and inject a story of hope, excitement, and belief. I have always celebrated my Haitian heritage and I cannot wait to watch this team continue to defy odds the rest of the 2023 Women’s World Cup.”
As a grantee partner of Play Academy with Naomi Osaka, GOALS Haiti advances youth leadership through soccer and education to create stronger, healthier communities in rural Haiti. Soccer is the heart of their programming. For a community to have the GOALS program, they must support equal participation from both girls’ and boys’ which has led to increased engagement of girls and is advancing gender equality.
Visit goalshaiti.com to learn more about the organization, and visit playacademynaomi.com to learn how Naomi Osaka, NIKE, Inc., and Laureus Sport for Good are changing girls’ lives through play and sport.