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Sunday, 16 October 2016 13:24

Historic Day for Cuban Soccer

First baseball, then diplomacy and now soccer or fútbol as it is known in the Spanish speaking world. After nearly 70 years the U.S. and Cuba played a friendly soccer match or partido amistoso. The U.S. played Cuba in World Cup qualifiers in 2008, and the two teams have since met in the Gold Cup, but this was the first friendly match between them since 1947. In that year, when the two countries enjoyed normal relations and before Fidel Castro’s ascent to power, the Cuban team prevailed by a score of 5-2.

On March 22, 2016 Barack Obama and Raúl Castro attended an exhibition baseball game between the Cuban all star team and a professional team from the U.S. Sports have always played a role in normalizing strained diplomatic relationships between long-time adversaries.

This time instead of a baseball game it was a soccer match that helped the two countries mend their fences.

It was expected that the U.S. would humiliate Cuba with their superior team since Cuba is ranked 139 and the U.S. 22nd according to the sport’s governing body, FIFA.

The game took place at Havana’s Pedro Marrero Stadium was played amid a backdrop of thawing political relations between the two countries as they work towards normalizing relations. The field that in no way resembled a playing surface where an international match should have been played. The unpredictable bounce made ball-control difficult, contributing to a forgettable first half. In fact, the field was in such bad shape that the U.S. Coach worried that one of his players might get injured. As one reporter said, the bumpy, dusty, hard, uneven and altogether unplayable surface made it impossible to forge anything remotely resembling international-level soccer".

Both Cuba and the U.S. had opportunities to score during an uneventful first half. In the second half the team from the United States came to life and lived up to its potential — winning 2-0 with goals by Chris Wondoliwsky and Julian Green in a game that will certainly not be part of any soccer highlight films.

The unspectacular game, however, was a showcase for Cuban players, some of whom would like to play internationally as the sport grows.

The U.S. team now has focus on preparing for its upcoming World Cup qualifying game against Mexico on November 11.

Published in News about Cuba
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