Adrian Frater, News Editor
Haiti's participation in the 12-nation CONCACAF under-17 Championship, now on in western Jamaica, was cut short yesterday when the team announced its withdrawal from the tournament after it was confirmed that malaria was the 'mystery illness' that had afflicted three players.
"Yes, it is true, medical tests have confirmed that the players are suffering from malaria," said Haiti's coach, Wilner Etienne, when contacted late on Tuesday night.
"We have other players displaying similar symptoms, so on the advice of the medical experts, we have withdrawn from the tournament and will be returning home."
Honduras awarded points
The Haitian team, which suffered a 3-1 loss to Costa Rica in their opening Group A game on Monday, was slated to play against El Salvador yesterday in what was supposed to have been a do-or-die assignment.
As a result of Haiti's withdrawal, Honduras, who were awarded three points and three goals for yesterday's unplayed game, and Costa Rica, who had taken three points off Haiti after beating them 3-1 on Monday's opening day, have now advanced to the quarter-finals as the two qualifiers from the three-team Group A.
"They (the Haitians) will be leaving today (yesterday). We have made plans to put them on a chartered flight back to Haiti," said Jamaica Football Federation General Secretary Horace Reid.
"It is sad to see them leaving like this, but it is something that the situation demands," he added.
Meanwhile, in a proactive move to ensure that malaria does not have any further impact on the tournament, the Ministry of Health has reportedly instituted vector control measures aimed at targeting the malaria parasite, which is transmitted from human to human via the anopheles mosquitoes.
"The health ministry has the responsibity to address that concern," said Reid. "Based on my information they are doing just that."
Interestingly, on the eve of the tournament the Haitians played a friendly game against their Jamaican counterparts at the Ferdie Neita Park in St Catherine.
However, the JFF has no fear that the local players have been affected in any way.
"Had our players been affected they would have started to show symtoms already," said Reid. "In addition, we must remember that this (malaria) is not something that is contracted through body contact."
Health scares are nothing new to the CONCACAF Under-17 tournament as the 2009 edition in Mexico was cut short after the group stage, following an outbreak of swine flu in Tijuana, the host city.
At the time that tournament was cut short, the four CONCACAF representatives for the 2009 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Nigeria had already been decided.