Curacao goalkeeper Jairzinho Pieter, a 31-year-old international from the island’s capital Willemstad, died after suffering a heart attack the night before his country’s international match with Haiti.
Haiti’s sports minister, Edwin Charles, confirmed Pieter passed away in the Curacao team hotel on Monday, after falling ill and suffering a cardiac arrest.
The experienced goalkeeper, who had represented Curacao 12 times internationally since 2013, played his club football with domestic side Vesta this season, having moved from fellow top-flight side Centro Dominguito – where Pieter was part of a side which won the Curacao league silverware multiple times.
Despite the tragic death of Pieter, his Curacao teammates opted to still play out the international fixture against Haiti the next day. The squad were reportedly eager to use the match as a tribute to their late teammate.
The game itself, played at the Stade Sylvio Cator in Port-au-Prince, was a hard-fought, determined attacking display with a fair number of shots and fouls being racked up by both sides. Each side threw everything they had into the match, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
Frantzdy Pierrot opened the scoring for Haiti in the match after 15 minutes, before Elson Hooi – who plays his club football in the Netherlands with ADO Den Haag – netted an equaliser four minutes before the interval. Neither side could find a winner, even despite the 47th minute dismissal of Haiti defender Ricardo Ade.
The draw kept Curacao top of the CONCACAF Nations League Group D table, though third side in the group Costa Rica are yet to play their fixtures.
Pieter’s death was unexpected and a tragedy, and absolute respect has to go out to his teammates to have the mental fortitude to go out onto that pitch in Port-au-Prince and ensure Pieter’s legacy lives on.