Ella Marie Etienne plays at Grovetown High School. Photo courtesy Brian Wintrode Photography.
Ella Marie Etienne plays at Grovetown High School. Photo courtesy Brian Wintrode Photography.

Grovetown soccer standout plays for Haitian national team

(Editor’s note: See more of Ella’s experience with the Haitian team on Instagram at haiti_futball and at ellamarie_futbol2)

Ella Marie Etienne’s second home is a soccer field.

“Honestly, it’s such a great game. I don’t want to do anything else,” said the 15-year-old Grovetown High School student, who dons multiple jerseys over the course of a year including playing for her high school team, as well as the CSRA Rush and Savannah United.

Last month, she added another team to her resume – the Haitian U17 girls’ national team.

Ella’s mom, Fica, is a native of Haiti, who moved to the U.S. about 20 years ago, and her dad, Lou, is from Panama. He frequently posts content from Ella’s games on social media, tagging the soccer officials in both Haiti and Panama.

Fica and Ella Marie Etienne. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

Those posts got the attention of the Haitian officials who contacted the Etiennes in January about having Ella play for them during the U-17 Women’s Championship of the Confederation of North, Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF), held in Mexico.

Despite the quick turnaround and needing to make a trip to Washington, D.C., to get a Haitian passport for the American-born Ella, Ella made the trip to Mexico in February and was part of the team that made it to the semifinals, losing to the United States team that went onto capture the title after beating Mexico 4-0 on Feb. 11.

Haiti had a 2-1 win over Costa Rica to open the tournament, followed by a 5-3 victory over El Salvador and a 4-0 loss to Mexico. Haiti also lost the third-place match to Canada 4-1 on Feb. 11.

The U.S. and Mexico will represent CONCACAF at the 16-country FIFA U-17 World Cup Oct. 16 to Nov. 23 in the Dominican Republic.

Only having a few days to train with her new teammates was a challenge for Ella, who has been playing soccer since she was 4.

“There was a language barrier. I knew a few words in Creole,” she said.  

Ella Marie Etienne plays at Grovetown High School. Photo courtesy Brian Wintrode Photography.

Despite the language barrier, she enjoyed her new teammates and learning more about the country where her mother was born.

“The girls were really nice,” she said.

She started working on breaking down communication barriers with her roommate.

“She started off with a wave or sign language,” she said. Before long “I could communicate with her.”

Ella did get to play in several of the games and got the attention of the coaches and other officials, who have mentioned the possibility of her joining the U-20 team in its World Cup quest.

That would be around August, said Fica Etienne; however, a lot of that could be contingent on the current unrest in her homeland as gang violence continues to escalate.

Fica Etienne said she’s always wanted to do something to help Haiti. She works in the medical field and had hoped that might one day open a door But until that time, she’s grateful that her daughter has done something that bolsters pride in the nation.

“My whole family played soccer. I have five brothers, and my father played. Everyone was excited,” she said.

 For Ella, it was another chance to chase her passion.

  “I love this game,” she said.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News and Inspiring: Women of Augusta, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at charmain@augustagoodnews.com. Sign up for the newsletter here.

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