With 14 appearances for the Haitian national team, Jems Geffrard is no stranger to overcoming challenges.
Entering his first season with HFX Wanderers FC during a global pandemic, Geffrard and his teammates managed to push through all of that and reach the 2020 CPL Finals.Geffrard was a star for the club in PEI, helping to anchor the back line.
TheWanderers wereso impressed withthe 26-year-old Montreal nativethat they picked up his option for the 2021 CPL campaign.
CanPL.ca contributor Dylan Lawrence chatted with the defender about his debut season with the Wanderers, and much more.
Dylan Lawrence: Have you been up to anything exciting this off-season?
Jems Geffrard: Well with the pandemic, all the facilities are closed (in Montreal). So the only thing I can do is run outside and I have a few weights at home to try to keep in shape. Ive spent time with my family Im not going to see them foreight orninemonths so Im just trying to be with my family. I play a lot of chess because I and my brother watched that Netflix series The Queens Gambit so weve played almost every day.
Did you play chess before? Or did you start playing because of the show?
JG: Yeah I used to like it when I was young. We learned to play at elementary school but I kind of forgot about it so weve started again. I like it.
What got you excited about signing with Halifax in your first year?
JG: The Grounds I was so, so upset that we couldnt play on the Wanderers Grounds everyone just kept talking about it and before I signed, I was at the Gold Cup and seeing the fans while going into the game are 100 per cent behind you, I (asked) what team in the CPL would give me that same vibe and Halifax (had it) so I wanted to go there. I wanted to see how it was to have those people cheering for you. I felt it a bit when I went to the mall and stuff and you wear your Wanderers stuff, people recognize you. That feeling of being 1-0 down and having the fans to push you was one thing that really pushed me to come here.
So tell me a bit more about your experience. Youve mentioned that the favourite place youve travelled to was Japan. What was the story there?
JG: Yeah, that was my first national team cap (for Haiti). I was at home in Finland and my friend called me saying he had good news. I asked what is it? and he said theyre going to call me for the national team. I was like nah, youre (lying) right now and he said no theyre going to call you. You know with football sometimes people say youre going to get a call from Barcelona or something and nothing happens. So they called me the next morning and said they wanted to invite me to the camp in Japan. I was like Japan first camp in Japan, like no way, and theyre like yeah, so youre coming next week. Once I knew I was going I was outside running, trying to do extra (training) to prepare. But going there was a 16 hour flight and it was the first time Ive done that in my life. I wasnt even feeling tired I was just so excited to be there, seeing a lot of Japanese people and they were so polite. It was one of the greatest experiences Ive ever had. For me it was something special.
Speaking of special moments, youve mentioned that going to the finals at the Island Games has been your favourite moment as a Wanderer so far. How would you compare that experience with your first national team cap?
JG: Well, its similar. The same feeling. For me, going to the national team was something that I accomplished, something big. But going to the CPL Finals was something bigger because it was the first year, first time I played with those guys and we did something I dont want to say great because we didnt win but something great because we made it with not a lot of [time together]. We had maybe one month to prepare, we were going somewhere we had never experienced before with being in a bubble. It was just a relief to make it to the final and feel that wow, were here right now and we did it.
I remember I was in my room with Daniel (Kinumbe) and the referee blew the whistle. I said to Dan were going to the final and you know Dan, hes just cool so he was just like yeah but I said yo, were going to the finals and he said yo, were going to the finals. So we ran outside and started cheering. It was special.
What is it about the team that you feel is special?
JG: I think you call it brotherhood. Everyone was together. There were no groups; not the Quebec guys staying together, we were just all together. I could be with Peter (Schaale) who is from Germany or Rampy (Andre Rampersad) and Akeem (Garcia) speaking their Trinidad language, and it doesnt feel awkward. I would just be like yeah, I want to learn too. Nobody was thinking that youre weird for being different. We felt together and like a family. So I think that side of it made this team feel special.
So going into 2021, hopefully youll finally have the chance to play on the Grounds. What are you looking forward to the most?
JG: I think just finish what we didnt do last year. We wanted to be champions and we, unfortunately, didnt do it. But I think this year we need to finish the job. We know how it feels to be in the finals, to win, to lose, to be one man down for 70 minutes, we know about all that. The only feeling (were missing) is winning the championship. So thats the only thing Im really thinking about.
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