Kerly Theus is a 5ft 4in goalkeeper who plays for the Haiti women’s national team.
For the last 40 minutes, we have talked about her career, her country, her childhood. We have even touched on the friends she lost in the 2010 earthquake.
There something has been bubbling up inside Haiti’s Kerly Theus 5ft 4in goalkeeper. In less than two weeks, Haiti face England, European Champions and second favourites behind the United States to win the tournament, at the Women’s World Cup in Brisbane, Australia.
It is Haiti’s first ever match at the competition – and for Theus, it will be the biggest of her career.
She asks to send this message to the girls in Haiti: “Keep pushing, keep driving and this moment, you’ll have it too when it’s your time.”
The team’s base in Croix-des-Bouquets, one of Port-au-Prince’s poorest suburbs, is officially called the Fifa Goal Center, but everybody knows it as ‘the Ranch’.
Today, up to 200 boys and girls aged 14 and above live, train and go to school at the former country mansion.
Haiti were one of the last teams to reach the World Cup, upsetting Chile in a play-off in New Zealand in February.
This Haitian team looks forward – there is no long football legacy, no history to lean on or run from.
On the pitch, the national team has clearly made substantial progress. In 2018, Haiti’s women reached their first Under-20 World Cup.
Five years later, the core squad remains and saw off Mexico and Senegal in qualifiers with comfortable, free-flowing wins.
Within the squad, the mindset has changed: Haiti are not just here to make up the numbers.
All this is happening while the Caribbean country continues to recover from an earthquake and subsequent cholera outbreak in 2010 that killed over 100,000.
The World Cup and the media attention which goes with it could be crucial in changing the conversation because this Haiti team represents not just a country, but a nation spread across the world.
Indeed, not all of the squad shares Theus’ childhood. Some were born in Haiti, others in the United States. Some only speak English, others only Creole.
Understandably, over the past two decades, a large number of Haitians have left the country. Over one million people with Haitian ancestry are living in the USA.
Most of the team live in France, with star midfielder Dumornay moving from Reims to eight-time Champions League winners Lyon on July 1. But among the squad, there is a common desire to give back to the nation that raised them.
Haiti have never played in a global major tournament though their men’s side did reach the group stage of the 1974 World Cup
Haiti’s Group D also includes two-time quarter-finalists Denmark and one-time runners-up China.
In every match at this summer’s competition, Haiti will be the overwhelming underdogs.
But that suits them just fine. Remember, nobody expected them to get past Chile.
After seven failed qualification attempts, Haiti are here. They have a platform to tell their own story.
The team is on an upward trajectory, a symbol for change.
Theus repeats that message for the next generation of Haitian girls who will be watching on 22 July, eager to build on the team’s success:
“Keep pushing, keep driving and this moment, you’ll have it too when it’s your time.”