The Golden Age

Once upon a time Cuba was one of the best teams in the Americas. By the early 1930s, the Island finished first at the I Central and Caribbean Games. They defeated Costa Rica and Honduras. Subsequently,between July 4 and July 19, 1938, Cuba’s national soccer team became the best Caribbean team in soccer history when they placed seventh at the Third FIFA World Championship in Paris, France’s capital city. During that event, Cuba had defeated Romania. However the Island was not see again in the World Cup.

Country Profile: Cuba

This Spanish-speaking nation is located in the Caribbean Sea. It covers 42,800 square miles; Latin America’s largest individual island. There are at least 12 million people. Havana is the country’s capital. Politically, Cuba is a dictatorship.

Since 1959 Cuba, formerly a colony of Spain, has become a Marxist dictatorship. In practice the Island is governed by Castro’s family. Hereafter, the nation’s dictator Fidel Castro Ruz was elected as the first pro-Soviet leader in the Western Hemisphere. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the USSR (now Russia) provided heavy military and economic aid.

Unfortunately it is one of the most brutal human rights abusing states in the Third World since the 1950s. Due to this, the Cuban tyranny is an international pariah on the world stage, along with Iran, Zimbabwe, Burma and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (also known as North Korea). According Reports Without Borders, Cuba is one of «15 enemies of the internet on Earth». For political and economical reasons, over 250 athletes, including Olympic champs, had left the country since 1990, the highest of the world’s developing nations. Economically, it has become heavily dependent on Venezuelan aid since the 2000s.

FIFA World Cup

Cuba’s national team has not qualified for the FIFA World Cup since 1938. In recent decades, many Caribbean and Central American nations, from El Salvador and Honduras to Haiti and Trinidad Tobago, have already outpaced Cuba. By the early 1970s, the Salvadoran team was the winner of the men’s soccer CONCACAF Tournament and because of this it was one of the 16 teams in the FIFA championship in Mexico City. Hereafter, twelve years on, El Salvador, along with Honduras, took part in its second men’s World Cup in Barcelona (Spain). For the first time in 44 years, Haiti, a virtual unknown before 1974, secured its place in soccer history when they competed at the X World Cup in Munich, West Germany. From 1990 on, Costa Rica has participated twice in the global event. At the FIFA 2002 tournament, the Central Americans finished 19th place (among 32 teams).

Unlike neighboring Cuba, Jamaica qualified for the World Cup in the late 1990s. The Jamaican squad placed 22nd in the FIFA championship, ahead of Scotland, Saudi Arabia and Japan. Subsequently, Trinidad & Tobago, a cricket-loving Island, participated at the 2006 World Cup. Meanwhile, Honduras has qualified for the South Africa 2010. Honduras, one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, made its World Cup debut in the early 1980s.

From 1962 until the late 1980s, sports in Cuba had suffered an abrupt change when the USSR and other Marxist states sent up to 300 coaches to the Island. Also during that period, the Spanish-speaking nation received more money per capita to promote sports than any other nation on Earth, including South Korea, China and Greece. At the same time, several soccer coaches came to Cuba, from Hungarians to Soviets. In the meantime, the Marxist government sent a host of national squads to Eastern Europe, North Korea and the Soviet Union. Havana also hosted many international tournaments. But despite all of this, the Cuban soccer team did not qualify for the FIFA World Cup. But that was only the beginning of the tragedy.

A Nightmare

From the 1990s to the 2000s, only a handful of soccer players did not escape from Cuba. By the early 1990s, Fernando Griñan, one of the Island’s most popular players, sought political asylum in abroad. But Griñan wasn’t the only one. By 1998 Eduardo Sebrango fled Cuba to Canada. Shortly afterwards, Alberto Delgado y Perez and Rey Angel Martinez defected from its national team during the 20o2 Gold Cup in the States. Three years later, Maykel Galindo escaped from the Island. Likewise, between 2007 and 2008, Osvaldo Alonso, Lester More, Pedro Faife and Reinier Alcantara had left Havana. In March 2008, seven players sought political asylum in America: Manuel Miranda, Erlys Garcia, Yenier Bermudez, Yordany Alvarez, Loanny Duarte, Yendri Diaz, and Eder Roldan. As a result, Cuba failed to qualify for the 2010 South Africa.

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