Foster: Mich. teen excited to represent Haiti in U.S. match

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Macomb Township — Scoring a goal against the United States women’s national soccer team is not some crazy far-out idea for 16-year-old Darline Radamaker. It could actually happen.

Radamaker was invited to play for Team Haiti during its two friendlies against the United States on Thursday at Ford Field (7 p.m. kickoff) and Sunday in Birmingham, Alabama.

She is a former Haitian orphan, adopted by American parents, who attends Utica Ford and plays for the top-ranked Michigan Gators Orange U-17 travel team based out of Macomb County.

“I don’t even know how to describe how amazing the feeling would be,” Radamaker said about scoring against the United States. “I would probably collapse on the field. I would not know what happened. It would be overwhelming and incredible.”

But even if she does not play, Radamaker is just happy to dress for her home country.

“I get chills just you saying it,” said Rick Radamaker, her father.

Haiti steps up

Radamaker’s amazing journey has thrilled teammates, schoolmates and family. This is one of the good stories to come out of the labor strife that bounced Australia from the matches. The men’s and women’s teams in Australia went on strike, forcing U.S. Soccer to find a new opponent.

Haiti, ranked 58th in the world, agreed to step in. The federation invited Radamaker, who has played once before with the senior team against Ireland in Florida. She is also a member of the U-20 Haitian team.

U.S. Soccer announced that the entire U.S. team that won the World Cup will attend the Detroit event.

“We are sincerely appreciative to Haiti for organizing their team to come for these two matches and they will enjoy the environments in Detroit and Birmingham,” U.S. head coach Jill Ellis said in a statement through U.S. Soccer. “For us, it’s another opportunity to get the group together, stay connected and focus on our performance as we continue to prepare for Olympic qualifying.”

Radamaker plays middle back or attacking mid and has great vision that makes her team and teammates better. Haiti coach Shek Borkowski was told by members of the Oakland University coaching staff about Darline and she flew to Florida for a minicamp where she earned a spot on the U-20 team.

“Her confidence has soared through the roof since she has been training with the Haitian team,” Utica Ford High School coach Teri Steinwascher said. “She has grown so much as a player in less than a year. She feels she can take a team on her back and carry it. She has always had the ability but never believed in it.”

Reaching out

Darline’s journey began in Haiti where her biological parents dropped her and her sister and brother off at the orphanage. It is a common practice as poor families’ dream of a better life for their children. Darline and sister Yphonise, who goes by Phoebe were, adopted at ages 6 and 8, respectively, by Rick and Lynn Radamaker, who attend Faith Lutheran Church in Troy. The church helped build the orphanage along with medical facilities in Les Cayes, Haiti and helps with adoptions.

The plan was to adopt one child, but Lynn, who made the initial trip, did not want to separate the sisters.

After initial barriers, which included language barriers and getting used to a new country, the Radamakers are your typical American family, even though two of the four sisters are from a different country. Megan and Kristin are the biological sisters of the Radamaker family.

“There are a lot of challenges. There are a lot of issues that come with adopting older kids,” Rick Radamaker said. “You know, just being a parent. They are both good kids and both do well in school.

She only knew a life of poverty while in Haiti. But it was the only life she knew so Darline cried when the Radamakers adopted her. Now Darline no longer cries. She has the best of both worlds. She can play for her native country but enjoy the fruits of the United States, which she hopes lands her a college scholarship.

“I don’t know where I would be without them (her parents),” she said. “It would definitely be a struggle if I were still in Haiti. I just thought that was the way life was. That you take care of yourself and that is how you live.”

Now life has thrown another twist at her. However, Darline is so humble that she did not tell friends she was playing in the game until pressed.

“I am so excited and I am nervous. It is crazy,” she said. “I can’t believe it. I am so fortunate to have this opportunity. I am super excited but it is nerve-racking. It is just an honor to play against them. I will try my best and give it my all.”