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  • Defection Epidemic in Cuban Soccer


    (ATR) Cuba could soon be running out of soccer players.

    Cuba suffered losses on and off the field in Toronto. (Getty Images)
    In 10 months a total of 27 players from various categories have left their national teams in tournaments of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf).

    The desertions have occurred in the United States with the exception of the most recent last weekend in Toronto, Canada, host of the first Group A match of the Concacaf League of Nations.

    On Saturday, Sept. 7, Canada defeated Cuba 6-0 and the loss was more bitter as it was accompanied by the escape of five of its main men.

    In November 2018, a total of 12 players left their team in Bradenton, Florida, during an under-17 tournament.

    In June, four members of the Cuban national team escaped during the Concacaf Gold Cup in Charlotte, and a month later, another six defected during a stopover at the New York airport on a trip to the Virgin Islands, home of a pre-Olympic tournament.

    On Oct. 11, Cuba will play in Washington D.C. against the USA, the other member of the group in the League of Nations.

    In 2012 when four players from the island defected in Toronto during the World Cup qualifier to Brazil 2014, FIFA reported that it would seriously discuss this situation with the Cuban authorities.

    A year later, during his trip to Havana, then president of FIFA Sepp Blatter refused to say if he discussed the matter with the Cuban government.

    Luis Paradela signed three-month loan deal with Reno 1868. (Reno 1868 FC)
    Despite the high number of Cuban defections in less than a year in official tournaments, there is no known public reaction from Concacaf.

    More than 50 Cuban soccer players, including two women, have left their national teams since 2002, 11 of them in Canada and the rest in the United States.

    The defections last weekend occurred at a time when a legal variant was put into practice: for the first time a Cuban soccer player linked to the State Sports Institute of Cuba played within the professional sports system of the United States without being forced to desert.

    The player Luis Javier Paradela debuted on Saturday for Reno 1868 F.C. of the United Soccer League (USL), the second tier of United States professional soccer.

    Thanks to a P-1A Athlete Visa, Paradela arrived in Reno for a three-month loan deal from Guatemala, where he is a member of the “University of San Carlos” club that negotiated the agreement with the Americans.

    It is the first time that a Cuban athlete, authorized by the government of Havana, is playing for a club in the United States under this condition. Paradela hopes to play for Cuba against the United States next month, he told Around the Rings.

    Written by Miguel Hernandez

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