- Nerilia Mondesir is the captain of Haiti’s U-20 women’s team
- Haiti have qualified for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup for the first time ever
- Mondesir: "We're not afraid of anyone"
When she set off for France in June 2017, leaving her family and friends behind, Haiti’s Nerilia Mondesir was in tears. The first female player from her country to sign a professional contract, the hugely promising 19-year-old was headed for Montpellier, where she has been fighting since the start of the season for a place in the first team. In the meantime, Mondesir’s tears have given way to smiles, not least because her Haiti team-mates will soon be joining her in France.
And the reason for that is because the Caribbean nation has won through to its first ever FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and will be running out with the world’s best in Brittany, France, this coming August. The Haitians booked their place by finishing third at the 2018 CONCACAF U-20 Women's Championships, a competition in which they beat powerhouses Canada 1-0. Yet while that may look like a major achievement, the Haiti captain does not quite see things that way.
“Nerilia is the captain, the leader of the pack. She’s the one who pulls the team along and she is enormously talented. I hope this World Cup will inspire a lot of Haitians to follow in her footsteps.” Haiti U-20 women’s team coach Marc Collat (FIFA.com)
“Judging by all the excitement on the island, you’d think it was a huge performance, especially as it’s the first time Haiti has qualified for a Women’s World Cup in any age group,” Mondesir told FIFA.com. “But in my eyes it’s not a surprise. We came really close to qualifying at U-17 level, and we just carried on working and believing, and it’s paid off.”
The forward’s opinion is backed up by Haiti’s results in the qualifying competition. Back-to-back 3-2 wins over Trinidad and Tobago and Costa Rica earned them a place in the last four, where they pushed USA all the way before going down on penalties. Then came their all-important meeting with the Canadians, with third place and a ticket to France 2018 at stake. Beaten 4-0 by the North Americans in their final group match, Haiti knew they had a fight on their hands, though Mondesir never doubted their ability to win it: “We knew we could do it if we stuck together.”
Representing a nation
The rest is history. Sherly Jeudy, set up superbly by Mondesir, scored the only goal of the game to trigger wild celebrations back home. “We made people really happy, which is great,” said the Haiti skipper. “Life is not always easy in our country, but the people are really cool. When we’re on the pitch we fight for them. We fight for Haiti.”
Mondesir knows a thing or two about fighting, having once been a keen judoka before giving up the sport for football because it seemed “easier to play” and offered her a better chance of “breaking through”. As she went on to say, there is no question of Haiti accepting their fate in Group D at France 2018, where they have been drawn with China PR, Nigeria and Germany, three heavyweights of the women’s game.
“We’re going to fight,” confirmed Mondesir, the second-highest scorer in the 2018 CONCACAF qualifiers with four goals. “We’re a small team and we know that it’s going to be tough if we want to be the world champions. But what’s not hard for us is to give our all on the pitch. And that’s what we’re going to do. We’re not scared of anyone. In fact, I like to give other people a scare,” she added with a broad grin. Come France 2018, Mondesir is determined to be all smiles once again.