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Haiti beckons Riverhounds' Castma

Thursday, August 03, 2000

By Ray Fittipaldo, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Joenal Castma hasn't had much success with the Riverhounds this season. Maybe his luck will change this month when he dons the uniform of his homeland.

Castma, 24, was called up to the Haitian national team and will play in exhibition games against El Salvador Saturday at Foxboro Stadium and Honduras Aug. 20 at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The Haitian national team is preparing for the Caribbean Cup.

Castma was born on Long Island, N.Y, but he is eligible to play for Haiti because both of his parents are Haitian. Castma is the only one of five siblings born in the United States. His mother, Jacqueline, moved here when she was pregnant with him.

Castma's father, Joseph, is involved in youth soccer in Haiti. Castma said Haiti's coaches discovered him on videotape, and the recruiting process was sealed when Riverhounds Coach John Kowalski gave a favorable recommendation.

Castma will miss the home game Saturday against Cincinnati and an Aug. 19 home date against Hershey.

"Whenever someone has the chance to play for their country, it's an honor," Kowalski said. "It's good for Joenal, it's good for us, and it's good for soccer. People in those bigger markets will see that he comes from the A-League and that he plays for the Riverhounds. It's a prestigious thing."

Castma has not played much for the Riverhounds this season, compiling one goal and one assist in 345 minutes. Kowalski said that was not a factor in allowing Castma to pursue the opportunity.

"Not at all," Kowalski said. "Whenever a country calls, you give up your player for that country."

Castma, whose father and other family members live in Haiti, said there is a chance this could lead to future associations with the team. Players on national teams receive considerably more money than A-League teams can offer.

"This is the greatest opportunity," Castma said. "Everyone dreams of playing for their national team. Hopefully, maybe, this could lead to something."

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