Erick Dalusma, Ouanaminthe FC, Haiti soccer,
Former Ouanaminthe Football Club 2011's head coach Erick Dalusma before a league game versus Association Sportive Capoise at Parc Notre Dame in Ouanaminthe on April 28, 2024. Photo credit: Ouanaminthe Football Club 2011

Overview:

Ouanaminthe Football Club’s head coach, Erick Dalusma, has parted ways with the club to move to Orlando, Florida, after being approved for the U.S. immigration humanitarian parole program (I-134A), commonly known as the Biden program among Haitians. This departure is a significant loss for the team, which considered Dalusma a key asset.

CAP-HAITIEN — The U.S. immigration humanitarian parole (I-134A), also known in Creole among Haitians as “Pwogram Biden”—for the Biden Program, added a new, talented and accomplished Haitian professional to its roster last week. This time, it entered the country’s sports sector, taking out and bringing to the United States Erick Dalusma, one of the most experienced and promising young coaches in Haitian soccer.

Coach Dalusma, a co-founder and former player of Ouanaminthe Football Club 2011 (OFC), led the team to the D1 Special Championship final last month. OFC lost the final to Real Hope Football Club Academy in penalties after the two teams tied 1-1 in regulation. However, both clubs already qualified for the Concacaf Caribbean Cup by reaching the final.

The departure of Dalusma, Ouanaminthe Football Club’s head coach, to seek a better life in the U.S., poses significant challenges for the team as it prepares for the region’s elite club competition in August. Left scratching their heads, OFC’s board members have yet to figure out who will replace him.

“It’s a really bad feeling because I sacrificed so much for this club,” Dalusma said about parting ways with OFC. “People in Ouanaminthe told me they lost a lot and football took a big hit. This got me really sad,” Dalusma, 32, added. “One of the players even posted a status [on WhatsApp], saying, it’s like his girlfriend left him when he didn’t even do anything to her. That got me in tears.”

Dalusma landed in Orlando on June 1, following his approval for the Biden program on April 1. He had delayed his move to the U.S. due to his commitments with OFC. He even rescheduled his initial flight to continue guiding the team through off-season games, a decision that frustrated his family in the United States.

Dalusma is one among many examples

Since its start in January 2023, the Biden Program has resulted in at least 150,000 Haitians being paroled and leaving the country. The program has drawn thousands of professionals from all sectors of the country’s activities, including banking, healthcare, education, manufacturing, agriculture, law enforcement, sports, and culture. Those departures have also exacerbated the inadequacy and unreliability of basic services to citizens.

People are leaving to escape the multitude of crises in Haiti, most notably ongoing gang violence in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, amid looming uncertainties on the nation’s socio-economic and political future.

“There will be a bit of a void because we’re so used to the coach. When we have problems, he takes care of it for us. His absence will create an issue. But we still have the same objective: competing to win Concacaf. We want to show that his work for us wasn’t in vain.”

Pierre Jovenel Stanley Junior, Striker of Ouanaminthe Football Club

Flore Aï-ti Entreprise, an agricultural company in the Northern Department that produces papaya, has closed its doors after many of its employees left, most of them without advanced notifications, for the U.S. through the Biden Program, company officials told Go West Now. The company has been struggling to find replacement workers.

In the healthcare sector, one of Gonaives’ most renowned hospitals, the Hôpital La Providence, has been understaffed since the end of last year, making it even harder for the already struggling institution due to a lack of funding to provide care to patients.

Dalusma is a soccer coach, high school PE teacher and NGO’s education program manager

Before leading OFC to the D1 Special Championship final, Dalusma won the Enock Lucien Cup and the Innovation Cup in March, establishing himself as one of the most promising young coaches in the country. One of his best traits as a coach is his ability to build strong relationships with his players, which often helps him get the best out of them.

“He had big dreams for me, he wanted me to achieve a lot,” Ouanaminthe’s forward Pierre Jovenel Stanley Junior said. “We talked often, and he told me what dreams he had for me. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve had by my side. I learned a lot from him.”

Now that one of OFC’s best elements has left, its possibility for success in the Concacaf Caribbean Cup is less up in the air.

“There will be a bit of a void because we’re so used to the coach,” Stanley said. “When we have problems, he takes care of it for us. His absence will create an issue. But we still have the same objective: competing to win Concacaf. We want to show that his work for us wasn’t in vain.”

In addition to being OFC’s head coach, Dalusma is also a gym teacher at Saint Francois Xavier High School in Ouanaminthe and an education manager for Vapor Ministries, a Christian non-profit organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged communities through discipleship and education. Both of those two institutions will miss him.

Although Dalusma was valuable in northeastern Haiti, he felt compelled to leave to build a better future for his family: his wife and two boys, 11 and 8 years old, respectively.

The cost of living has become outrageously disproportionate to his earnings.

“The way the country is [made me go],” Dalusma said. “Yes, I had two jobs, but usually, by the time I got paid, all my money was already gone. I left to support my family and my friends.”

Dalusma hopes to continue his coaching career in the U.S. and said that his family will help him find a team within the soccer-influent Latino community, even at the amateur level, to start coaching again.

“I want to stay in the football world until I go down into the grave,” Dalusma said.

Email me at [email protected]
Onz Chery is a Haiti correspondent for Go West Now. Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and Elite Sports New York before joining Go West Now in 2019.

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