PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Brazil routed a weak Haitian team 6-0 Wednesday in an exhibition soccer game aimed at promoting peace in the Caribbean country.
Ronaldinho scored three times and Roger twice as goals by the World Cup champions went flying past Haitian goalkeeper Fenelon Gabart. Nilmar had the other goal, and Brazilian star Ronaldo assisted twice.
The highlight was Ronaldinho's first goal in the 32nd minute. He dribbled up the middle around and through four defenders, then jumped over the goalkeeper and tapped the ball into an empty net.
The sellout crowd of about 15,000 chanted "Haiti, Haiti," but many also cheered when Brazil scored - at least for the first few goals. After that they cheered the home side.
The game was billed as a "Match for Peace" nearly six months after a rebellion culminated in the ouster of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Brazil is heading a U.N. peacekeeping force meant to bring stability to Haiti.
Cheering Haitians, some waving Brazilian flags, lined the streets to greet Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who later attended the game.
Haitian children posed with players on the field. While the anthems played some children held a banner reading, "Social justice is the real name of peace," echoing an earlier comment by Silva. Showers of confetti floated in the stands.
Security was tight in newly renovated Sylvio Cator Stadium. Police and about 800 Brazilian troops secured the area, including about 200 soldiers posted inside the stadium.
"Our soccer players are not the only stars in Haiti. You are also scoring a goal," Silva, popularly known as "Lula," said after meeting troops at a compound next to the Port-au-Prince airport where he planted Brazil's national tree - the pau-brasil, or pernambuco.
Silva said it was the first time a Brazilian president has visited Haiti and said the game "will become a symbol of our friendship." Interim Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue called the game "a great gift to the Haitian people" from Silva.
The Brazilian leader met interim President Boniface Alexandre before the game, and officials signed two agreements pledging cooperation in sports and efforts to strengthen democracy. President Jorge Batlle of Uruguay, another member of the U.N. force, also was visiting.
In Haiti, where soccer fields are covered by trash and few have the money for equipment, the sport is still king, even though the national team has long been weak.
Initially, organizers of the exhibition considered inviting fans to turn in guns for admission, but the plan was abandoned because of concerns it could be seen as rewarding criminals.
A small group of Aristide supporters lit tires in the streets of Port-au-Prince's Bel Air neighborhood Wednesday and shot into the air during a demonstration calling for Aristide's return. No one was reported hurt.
© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us