It is official; two more Cuban soccer players defected.
And maybe even a coach, Dagoberto Lara, according to the St Petersburg Times. Lara “was conspicuously absent from the Olympic qualifiers at Raymond James Stadium.”
The Cuban “team” had to play its game against Honduras with only 10 players who had to play the whole game. They ended the game with 9. One was too “ill to continue”
As we all know, the defecting athletes said publicly that their coming to America was not political in nature, they just want to play ball.
But balls are round and they roll and they bounce. And the ball took a political bounce on Thursday.
According to International Herald Tribune, CONCACAF the regional soccer governing body that organized the tournament wasn’t happy with freedom getting in their way of their Olympic qualifier:
The defecting players had initially been offered a trial by second-tier professional team Miami FC but the United Soccer Leagues club later backed away from that position after contact with CONCACAF.
“The official position of Miami FC is that it is not right for any athlete, in any sport, to abandon a competition in the middle of it,” said club spokesman Marcos Ommati.
“Our first intention was to help but we had to think it through,” Ommati said, adding that the players might be offered a chance with the club after they resolved their legal status.
Ah, the politics of soccer, free markets and free press!
Now the newly exiled soccer players will have to play ball with immigration and seek political asylum in the US under the Cuban adjustment act of 1966. Join the Club.
In another interesting political dimension in this so apolitical defection is the reaction of some Tampa fans to the defections:
Fans cloaked in Cuban flags screamed encouragement, but watched as players limped and collapsed. Lacking substitutes, they couldn’t rest. One was too ill to finish the game.
“It’s unjust that they did that to their team,” said fan Jorge Abelenda. He wondered if the team members could’ve deserted after ensuring Cuba’s win.
“On one hand, you’re happy for them,” said 23-year-old fan Miguel Fernandez. “On the other, your team is short seven players.”
Where do reporters find these “fans”?
Did Aruca and Lesnik go to Tampa to root for the comandante’s team? Don’t think so, they have been summoned to a meeting with their masters in Havana next Wednesday. Hopefully, they’ll defect and stay there..