Blood sausage – UPDATED

Call me naïve or perhaps even ignorant, but I was not aware that international sports organizations had a moral responsibility to help totalitarian regimes keep a tight leash on their human chattel. According to the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel’s soccer columnist Jeff Rusnak, however, it seems that they do. Mr. Rusnak feels that the ill-advised selection of Tampa as the location for the Cuban team’s games were in large part to blame for the defections last week of the seven Cuban soccer players.

What was CONCACAF thinking when it scheduled Cuba to play 2008 Olympic qualifying games in Florida instead of Carson, Calif.?
CONCACAF decided to make it easier for the Cubans this time around by scheduling three games at Raymond James Stadium, just a four-hour drive from Miami. Rather than players having to book a flight to join fellow exiles in South Florida, all that was needed this time was a driver and a minivan.

Mr. Rusnak goes on to say how irresponsible it was to schedule any event involving Cuban nationals so close to that dreaded city in southern Florida: Miami (US Journalism Rule 15-137a: Whenever reporting about Cuba, make negative mention of the Cuban-American community in Miami).

Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of U.S.-Cuban relations knows that the first rule of scheduling anything to do with Cuba in this country is to place the visitors as far away from Miami as possible. The first reason is to avoid the protestations of Miami’s Cuban community.
The second reason, as CONCACAF learned so painfully this week, is that the event, be it a soccer match or a ballet recital, might end up losing many of its leading talents well before the final performance. Cuba had just 10 players for Thursday’s loss to Honduras and 11 for Saturday’s group final against Panama. That hardly meets the standard one expects for an Olympic qualifying tournament.
No one can blame the Cuban players for taking advantage of the opportunity to leave. What’s bizarre, though, is that CONCACAF ignored an option that probably would have left Cuba with enough players to compete in this tournament. That option was Haiti, which for some reason was based in Carson in a group with Mexico, Guatemala and Canada.

There, I believe, is where we get the gist of Mr. Rusnak’s frustration. You see, he does not really care how much these Cuban players suffer, or how they are used as pawns by a totalitarian regime. He just wants to see a good, entertaining soccer match without all of those nasty distractions such as human suffering, slavery, apartheid, and injustice.
It seems like sports to Mr. Rusnak is like sausage; he likes to eat it, but he is not at all interested in how it is made.
UPDATE – 11:00 AM
I took the liberty of e-mailing Mr. Rusnak and received this reply:

Point well taken. My wife was born in Cuba and her family left after Castro came to power.
I wrote that I don’t blame the Cubans for defecting. However, Cuba has played here four times now since 2002. The first three times CONCACAF made a point of staging Cuba out west rather than in Florida. This time they didn’t and they ended up with a team that didn’t have enough players to even begin a game!
The point I had hoped to make was that CONCACAF knows it’s inviting a major disruption to its tournament by having Cuba play in Florida. Quite simply, in terms of performing their minimum function of organizing a qualifying tournament, CONCACAF failed because it didn’t do what it’s always done in the past, which is place Cuba as far away from Miami as possible. This is standard procedure when hosting any group from the island.
I’m glad the seven Cubans defected. I only wish the entire team have joined them!
Thanks for the feedback. I hope I haven’t offended you because that is clearly not my intent toward the Cuban people.
Jeff Rusnak

At the very least, I appreciate the fact that he took the time to respond and make clear that he felt that all the players on the Cuban team should have defected. Nevertheless, I still disagree with his assertion that CONCACAF has any responsibility for making sure they chose locations less conducive to defections. My response to Mr. Rusnak is below the fold.

Mr. Rusnak:
I appreciate your quick response to my letter, and based on what you have said, you have given me no reason to doubt your sincerity in regards to your desire to see the whole Cuban team achieve freedom. Nevertheless, I must still take issue with the assertion that the responsibility to keep athletes from totalitarian regimes in check should fall on the shoulders of an international organization. I reiterate that the reason these athletes defected had to do with the dictatorship in Cuba and not with the proximity to Miami. Perhaps the location of Tampa made it easier, but I doubt these players would have desired freedom any less if they were in Carson, CA.
If CONCACAF does not want its tournaments disrupted by defecting players, they should perhaps address the source of the problem–the Castro regime. For CONCACAF to hold these tournaments in venues less conducive to the defection of Cuban athletes is tantamount to aiding the dictatorship’s security apparatus. I am not advocating that CONCACAF remove Cuba from its list of participating countries, but they should have known that if Cuba participates in their events, this problem would occur. A problem, I must confess, that puts them in a very difficult situation: Either put up with the political turmoil every time a Cuban athlete defects, or aid the regime in keeping its enslaved athletes in check.
I, for one, given no other alternative, would choose the former. Freedom, as you surely know, is worth more than any soccer match or tournament.
Thank you again for your response.
Alberto de la Cruz

14 thoughts on “Blood sausage – UPDATED”

  1. You took the words right out of my mouth Alberto. I just read the column and at first I thought it was parody. I urge our readers to leave Mr. Rusnak pithy comments. Also, I’ve got news for him, I live right next door to Carson, and we’ve got Cuban friendly mini-vans out here as well.

  2. Here is the answer to my own question:
    “His life has been a whirlwind ever since. He talks every day by phone with the five other defectors. They are with friends in South Florida. He’s fielded calls from soccer teams that are offering him tryouts. He reacted – with great shock – when he heard Thursday that Assistant Coach Dagoberto Lara also went missing.
    “He’s in Miami. I know that he’s with a sister or a cousin in Miami,” Diaz said. “I never imagined he would go. I didn’t expect it. It surprised me.”
    From Tampa Tribune

  3. “That option was Haiti…” You gotta be kidding me, right? And the Cuban players would not consider staying in Haiti? Or Mexico? They’d be willing to swim there.
    Otro equivocado trasnochado journodude. He probably would rant and stomp against changing the Olympics venue in China while he watches the slaughter of the regime.

  4. I also emailed at, since it looks like they stoppeed publishing comments:
    Mr. Rusnak,
    At first I assumed your article was parody, because it seemed impossible that an American columnist would be advocating slavery, which is exactly what the Cuban players are, owned by Castro, Inc. These players live in a totalitarian dictatorship with no human rights. Go read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, keeping in mind that every universally accepted right you enjoy, these Cuban players are denied in their own country. True sport requires honorable behavior, both from players and fans, and there is no honor when the spectacle is more important than the life or liberty of the players. It’s no surprise when silly young people who don’t know better don Che Guevara t-shirts, ignorant of fact that he was a mass murderer, or when Hollywood useful idiots wax on about the brilliance of dictators, but I expect more from a journalist. Are you aware that when Cuban players, or artists for that matter are allowed to travel their families are never allowed to travel with them as incentive to maintain the party line? Are you aware that these travelers are subject to heavy security, not allowed freedom of movement or association by Castro’s SS type security agents to ensure they don’t defect?
    At the very least a sports journalist should reflect the values of sportsmanship and by suggesting that the Cuban players should have been located somewhere more secure, you are advocating their continued slavery. Here is a little history for you, not from Cuba exiles, but the UN:
    In 1959 there were 11 prisons. Today there are more than 300. In the 1950’s Cuba had 58 daily newspapers. Presently only one exists. In the 1950’s -Cuba ranked eighth in the world in number of private radio stations. Presently privately owned radio stations are forbidden. Cuba’s infant mortality rate of 32 per 1,000 live births in 1957 was the lowest in Latin America and the 13th lowest in the world, according to UN data. Cuba ranked ahead of France, Belgium, west Germany, Israel, Japan, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, all of which would eventually pass Cuba in this indicator during the following decades. Presently Cuba has one of the largest abortion rates in the entire world Within Latin America, Cuba ranked second only to Venezuela in 1958 in number of automobiles per capita at 24 per 1,000. Today its transportation system is a complete disaster. During the late 1950’s, Cuba ranked second only to Uruguay in Latin America, with 169 radios per 1,000 people. (Worldwide, this put Cuba just ahead of Japan.) In terms of television sets per capita, 1950’s Cuba was far ahead of the rest of Latin America and was among the world’s leaders. Cuba had 45 television sets per 1,000 inhabitants in 1957, by far the most in Latin America and fifth in the world, behind only Monaco, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. During the 1950’s, the Cuban people were among the most informed in the world, living in an uncharacteristically large media market for such a small country. In 1957, Cuba had more television stations (23) than any other country in Latin America, easily outdistancing larger countries such as Mexico (12 television stations) and Venezuela (10). It also led Latin America and ranked eighth in the world in number of radio stations (160), ahead of such countries as Austria (83 radio stations), United Kingdom (62), and France (50), according to the UN statistical yearbook.
    Please read this, (click here) and if you were a man of honor, you’d apologize to your readers, especially Cuban exiles for this painful, insulting article.
    Ziva K. Sahl, Los Angeles Ca.
    p.s. By the way, there are plenty of Cuban exiles and their friends living in Southern California and we also have mini-vans.

  5. I know Jeff from when I covered the Fusion, and from the South Florida soccer scene in general. When Jeff says CONCACAF “did not do what it has done in the past” he is referring to the Gold Cup. When Cuba has participated, they have been purposely placed in a group that is not hosted by Miami. I think the last time the participated they were in the group that played in California, Maykel Galindo (another soccer player, I am almost sure Val or Henry had a post about it) defected during the last Gold Cup. Miami always hosts a group, and semis, sometimes even the final. The way they seed the groups, the only way Cuba gets to play in Miami is by advancing past the first stage, which is unlikely.

  6. I seriously doubt that he is going to publish a retraction in the newspaper. His response here is only “damage control.”

  7. I think the federal government should make it standard operating procedure to let Cuban athletes know when they come through the immigration counter at the airport that have rights and liberties the second they step on American soil and that they can not be forced to go anywhere against their will.

  8. I don’t have a mini-van but I’ve got an air mattress and a little space in my apartment living room, and I’m not afraid to use it!

    (Plus some Spanish-speaking neighbors to serve as interpreters…)

  9. It’s sad that like everything else in Cuba, Cuban soccer is great potential gone unfulfilled. If Cuban players could play overseas and if domestic Cuban soccer could enjoy the benefits of a normal professional sports industry, then Cuban soccer could become really good. The match against the US team was impressive!
    But unfortunately Cuban players have to leave Cuba to fulfill their talents and pursue their dreams. I really hope all the players make it big!

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