Miami Herald


- Andre C. Fernandez: @FernandezA­ndreC

their home country in recent years.

They live with parents of teammates or coaches who have become their legal guardians.

Emile himself, a coach at Edison the past 22 years who works as a security guard at the school, took in senior defender Ketchmay Michel, whose mother stayed behind in Haiti after sending her daughter to Miami to get her away from the violence and strife that she feared could claim her life.

“She used to stay with one of her mom’s cousins, but he couldn’t stay in Miami anymore,” Emile said. “[Michel] came up to me one day and said, ‘Coach, I have no place to sleep.’ I had to call my wife and I told her, ‘We have a situation.’ As parents, we couldn’t let that happen. When we eat, she eats. I’m trying to get her into college so she has a future.

“In Haiti right now, there are a lot of kidnapping­s. You could be sitting in your house and take a bullet and not even know where it came from. There’s gangs who will try to have sex with these girls not even caring what age they are. As long as they have a visa, their parents would rather see them come here than see them die, so they buy a ticket and send them here.”

“With Ketchmay, it’s not easy, but I make sure I make it easy. At first, my other kids were like, who is Ketchmay? And I told them, ‘That’s your sister.’”


Michel keeps in touch with her mother, who coached soccer in Haiti and coached her growing up. Her dream is to earn the chance to go to college and earn the means to bring her mother to the United States.

It’s a dream shared by many of her teammates at Edison, who didn’t have an opportunit­y to play the sport they loved until recently.

Emile has begun seeing colleges take an interest in his players. The colleges include Florida Memorial University and Florida National University, which had two of its coaches scouting his team’s playoff game last week.

“My mom is so happy that I’ve been able to continue playing,” Michel said in Creole with Emile translatin­g.

“I’m working to go to college so I can bring her and my brother over here to be with me.”

The Red Raiders play their games on campus, but the venue does not have lights, keeping them from playing or practicing there after hours.

This is where Little Haiti FC, a club founded in 2014, comes in.

The club, which operates out of Little Haiti Soccer Park, allows youths from the local community to participat­e in the program free of charge and has teams made up of players as young as age 4 to early 20s, who compete on their UPSL (United Premier Soccer League) team, currently ranked No. 1 among squads in that league.

Pat Santangelo, a cofounder and board member of Little Haiti FC, said former Ransom Everglades boys’ soccer coach Dave Villano spoke with Edison boys’ soccer coach Gomez Laleau about starting a club for his players. This led to the creation of Little Haiti FC’s club.

Until last year though, Little Haiti FC did not have a girls’ program.

It has since opened the door for numerous girls from the area and several more who have come from Haiti — many of whom are on Edison’s roster — to have a place after hours to practice. The club, which has roughly 200 players, tries to provide a place where the local youths can avoid dangerous situations and illegal activities on the streets.

Since the club’s inception, every one of its alums has graduated high school and roughly 80 percent of them have gone on to college.

“The Miami Rotary Club came here to give us a few soccer balls and they saw a bunch of girls here but not practicing. They asked why we didn’t have a team,” said Santangelo, a former public informatio­n officer for the Florida Highway Patrol. “So they funded the start of a girls’ program.”

The club has drawn support in recent years from soccer organizati­ons and clubs including Inter Miami FC, which has donated soccer balls and equipment.

David Beckham, Inter Miami president and co-owner, visited the club in recent years and interacted with the kids, according to Santangelo. The club also provided laptops for use in school to one group.

Little Haiti FC was struck by tragedy in May 2019 when three of its boys’ players, Gedeon Desir, Lens Desir and Richecarde Dumay, were struck by a drunk driver while waiting for a bus on the sidewalk on Northeast 125th Street, according to reports.

A mural with artist renderings of the victims’ faces was painted on the walls of one of the buildings adjacent to Little Haiti FC’s practice field.

“Sometimes these kids, 16, 17 years old, playing well, but they’re still on the run,” Emile said. “Some of them can’t even go to their house. They

walk down the street anything can happen.”

Santangelo helped start Little Haiti FC and has seen it grow despite the challenges of relying on the generosity of local community organizati­ons and high school alums, who have provided support through monetary donations for the players to buy new sneakers or boxed meals.


Emile has coached both boys’ teams at Edison alongside Laleau and directed the girls’ squad during his time at the school. Laleau directed the Edison boys to regional playoff victories four times from 2008-2012 and more appearance­s in recent years.

But significan­t girls’ soccer success at the school didn’t come until this season.

Emile, who has six kids of his own and is still raising his two children (one 8-year-old and one 5-year-old) along with his wife Michel, coached a squad of only eight players last season. Edison still qualified for the GMAC tournament, known as the annual public school Miami-Dade County championsh­ip.

This year, with their largest roster ever, Edison won the GMAC tournament for the first time after beating perennial contenders such as MAST Academy and Miami Palmetto. The Red Raiders, who had advanced to the regional round only once, in 1990, proceeded to win a district title two weeks ago and won a regional playoff match for the first time this past Friday.

Despite the success, Edison hasn’t drawn the kind of fan support typically seen by breakthrou­gh programs in other sports. Part of the reason isn’t lack of interest from the team’s parents and fans, but lack of financial means to attend the games.

During the Red Raiders’ victory Friday on penalty kicks in the regional semifinals against Ransom Everglades, one of the most affluent schools in Miami, the majority of the spectators were Ransom parents and supporters.

Many of the Edison players’ families do not have the means to come to the games or even pay for the $9 tickets to attend.

“About 90 percent of the players of this team haven’t been able to have their parents see them play,” Santangelo said. “Most of the time, we’re just worried about making sure they have food to eat.”

Emile’s squad has often needed to ask the club to use the regulation soccer balls required for each playoff match.

Edison’s struggle recently touched the hearts of some of those parents and players from Ransom Everglades even after they were dealing with the pain of a season-ending defeat.

Word circulated among Ransom’s parents after the game and they privately raised nearly $5,000 in less than 48 hours to help Edison’s soccer team with travel to Davie, equipment and the $9 ticket costs for Wednesday night’s game.

“We basically just wanted to do something to help,” Ransom Everglades athletic director Scott Berman said. “There’s plans in the future to try to bring them on campus one day within FHSAA rules and provide swimming lessons and do something nice. This goes beyond the game.”

Edison’s girls will strive to make more history Wednesday night.

A victory over defending state runner-up NSU University School would bring more joy to a team and a tight-knit community that need it.

It will undoubtedl­y raise challenges as to how to prepare financiall­y for a trip to Auburndale, site of next week’s state tournament, a trip Edison High School itself will have to fund.

But the Red Raiders are used to finding a way.

Because for their girls, the impact of this season goes far beyond just soccer.

“Just coming to Edison has been a good thing for me,” Michel said. “Being part of this team and winning with them makes me proud.”

 ?? ANDREW ULOZA For the Miami Herald ?? Miami Edison players celebrate a goal against Palmetto in the GMAC championsh­ip game.
ANDREW ULOZA For the Miami Herald Miami Edison players celebrate a goal against Palmetto in the GMAC championsh­ip game.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States