It was a meeting of two of the most passionate audiences in North Miami earlier this month as thousands of soccer and music fans from the Haitian community gathered at the North Miami Athletic Stadium on Sept. 11 to salute the game they love and to party well into the night.
The gathering was the culmination of the Super 8 amateur soccer tournament — part of the Madame Gougousse Haiti Cup — and the event’s organizer, Patrick Fabre, thinks the event is just the beginning. For North Miami, it’s another example of the various cultural and musical celebrations hosted in the city.
The Super 8 began in July, and the final four teams faced off for a $10,000 first prize, with $5,000 going to the runner-up team. The Violette Football Club ultimately won the grand prize over Gonaïves by a score of 1-0.
Fabre changed things up for this year’s tournament final by adding two popular Haitian konpa bands, Klass and dISIP, to the festivities. Konpa, also known as Haitian modern merengue and compas direct, has a history of more than 60 years. The bands performed after the tournament and added to an already raucous crowd and a tradition of Haitian drums and carnival music — played by the Rara Lakay band — providing the musical backdrop for the soccer games.
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“After a couple years of doing the soccer tournament, we wanted to try the final with live music,” Fabre said.
After experimenting with the idea, Fabre saw attendance increasing and figured the combination would be successful. He said he was excited and proud to see nearly 5,000 people at the event, many of them just wanting to be part of the spectacle.
“A lot of people come just to hang out with friends, and a lot of people come just for the music,” Fabre said.
Tickets were $20, and the event was free for children under 15, which the organizers think is a bargain when compared with most concerts. And beyond soccer, Fabre thinks the price opens the event up to people who might not want to go to clubs and music venues to see the konpa bands.
“Kids who are under 18 years old, they can’t get into a nightclub. So if they want to be connected to Haitian music, they can do it here,” Fabre said.
Vice Mayor Alix Desulme, who was born in Haiti, said the Super 8 tournament and similar events are a callback to home and have brought income to North Miami even though the city doesn’t formally organize the event.
“People love soccer, and it’s one of the No. 1 sports in Haiti, so when you combine that and music together it’s a win-win,” Desulme said.
He said the city has had conversations with The Children’s Trust and other organizations to try to bring a youth soccer program to the city. Neighboring North Miami Beach partnered last year with the Argentine soccer club Boca Juniors to establish a soccer training program. And in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood, the Little Haiti Football Club continues to grow and gain fans and financial support.
People love soccer, and it’s one of the No. 1 sports in Haiti, so when you combine that and music together it’s a win-win.
North Miami Vice Mayor Alix Desulme
Desulme and the city hope to organize a family fun day event in November, around Veteran’s Day, to include a soccer tournament for children.
The Super 8 tournament joins already established cultural events in the city like the annual Taste of Haiti at the Museum of Contemporary Art plaza. It draws hundreds of people who want to enjoy traditional Haitian cuisine like the soup joumou, fried goat and griot, as well as new fusion dishes and chef cook-off competitions.
Along with celebrations of Haitian and Caribbean culture, the city has also hosted big parties for Hispanic Heritage month like La Gran Fiesta. This year’s party featured performances from Marlow Rosado y la Riqueña and other local Latin artists. Last year’s event attracted hundreds of visitors to the MOCA plaza and included folk-art shows and music from Puerto Rican, Mexican and Cuban artists.
The celebrations mirror the demographics of the 90-year-old city as the population is about 59 percent black, with a sizable Haitian population, and about 27 percent Hispanic.
The full Madame Gougousse Haiti Cup will kick off again March 6 and run through May. Fabre said he will continue to brainstorm for that event and for next summer’s Super 8 tournament. He hopes to continue to experiment with ways to keep the party going for years to come.
“We’ve never been complacent. Every year, we try to bring something different and to bring a different spice to it,” Fabre said.
Miami Herald staff writer Jacqueline Charles contributed to this story.