Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cuba 3 Britain 2,

So Ended a football match on 11th December 2001 between a team of veterans of the Cuban national squad and a British Ambassador's eleven. The match was commemorating the first ever 'international' football match on Cuban soil on December 11th 1911 between a local team Hatuey and a team of British sailors called Rovers. It was also celebrating a new collaboration aimed at developing Cuban football, one of the few sports which Cuba is not (yet) very good at.

Later in December a decorated double decker bus was due to arrive from Britain to be used by the Cuban national team. It, together with 1600 footballs for use in clubs and schools, had been donated by the Salud International trade union project working with the English Football Association. Salud aims to send 1500 footballs every year and is negotiating to get a major English or Scottish club involved in sending trainers and perhaps even paying a visit.

The new British ambassador Paul Hare is involved in the project and is keen to develop a two way exchange - British football coaches in return for Cuban baseball coaches.

Luis Fernandez, President of the Cuban Football Association, (who scored the winning goal) commented that Cuba was particularly keen to develop football because it was the most international of all sports. His hope is to see Cuba in the World Cup finals by 2010. Raul Castro is also reported to be very keen on it for fitness training in the Cuban army since it requires much more energy that Cuba's traditional national sport of baseball. But baseball is not being forgotten.

In November the Cuban squad retained its world championship crown, winning 5-3 in the final against, most sweetly, the United States.

Phil Lenton - Salud


Cuba were the first Caribbean team to make it to the World Cup, which they did in 1938. There, they defeated Romania a replay 2-1 after tying them 3-3. They were then eliminated in the second round by Sweden.