Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
CUBA DIARY: Letter from Fidel
by Mike Woitalla, September 5th, 2008 7AM
Subscribe to Soccer America Daily

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

Mike Woitalla reports from Havana
Walking down one of Havana's longest streets, the Calle Infanta, I'm approached by man in a worn-out striped polo shirt who asks where I'm from. After I answer he says, in a friendly way, "You must come with me."

We walk past one of the street vendors who refills disposable lighters, then take a right turn toward the University of Havana and enter a stylish cafe.

"This is where Fidel Castro and Che Guevara discussed many important things," says my new tour guide, Victor.

He puts his forearm next to mine and says, "We are different colors, but it doesn't matter. That was one of the things they talked about when they sat right here," pointing to a table.

I smile back, and ask him, "Is it true that Raul Castro played soccer? It's something I read on the Internet."

Victor says he doesn't know. He thinks Raul played basketball, and adds that Fidel was an excellent athlete. Legend has it that Fidel struck out Tommy Lasorda in an exhibition game attended by scouts from the Washington Senators but wasn't offered a contract.

Last February, Raul Castro, 77, took over the presidency from his older brother Fidel, 82.

Fidel Castro is ailing but his views are relayed to the Cuban people through Granma, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party.

The newspaper is named after the yacht that on Nov. 25, 1956, carried 82 revolutionaries, including the Castro brothers and Che Guevara, from Mexico, where they had been plotting, to Cuba. The yacht got its name from its original owner, who was honoring his grandmother.

In an August issue of Granma, Fidel Castro offered his reflections on the 2008 Olympic Games.

Although Cuba, a nation of only 11 million, won 24 medals, including two golds, the performance was a disappointment compared to past Olympic efforts. At Athens 2004, the Cubans won nine gold medals and in 1992 Cuba was fifth in gold-medal wins with 14.

Cuba's 2008 Olympic performance was marred by Angel Valodia Matos, who won a Tae Kwon Do gold medal in 2000. In Beijing, Valodia Matos kicked referee Chakir Chelbatin the head.

In Castro's Granma editorials, he defended Valodia, pointing out that his mother died while he was in China and that he was "taken aback by a decision that struck him as utterly unfair ... he couldn't hold back any longer."

Castro blamed semifinal losses by Cuban boxers on bribed judges and referees. And he admonished the international press for not pointing out certain things about Cuba, such as, "It is the only country where professional sport is not practiced. ... The only country economically blockaded by the most powerful and richest empire that ever existed."

He accused other nations of stealing Cuba's athletes. Three gold-medal winning boxers defected while in training camp in Venezuela in 2006 and went professional with a German promoter.

Castro hailed Cuba's silver medalist baseball team for its two wins over the USA, "the country that invented the sport," and then went on to call for a review of Cuba's sports programs and an introduction of "new ideas, concepts and knowledge."

There was no mention of soccer, because Cuba didn't qualify for the Olympics, a U-23 tournament, although it looked to have a good chance after opening the qualifying tournament with a 1-1 tie against host USA in Florida last March. After the game, seven Cuban players defected. Playing with 10 men, Cuba fell, 2-0, to Honduras.

On Saturday, Cuba's full national team hosts the USA in World Cup qualifying. Fidel Castro is not expected to attend, but rumor has it that Raul will be at the Pedro Marrero Stadium.



No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
MLS Moves: Castillo swept off his feet in Turkey    
FC Dallas star Fabian Castillo arrived in Turkey ahead of his anticipated transfer from MLS to ...
What They're Saying: David Luiz    
"It's important to be an example, especially for the kids. I work every day with this ...
MLS All-Star Game: Wondo ready for challenge    
All-Star Games are supposed to be wide-open, entertaining affairs, and if so, are tough tests for ...
U.S. women are off to Brazil -- opener next Wednesday    
The U.S. women's national team was off to Brazil Wednesday night to prepare for its quest ...
MLS Homegrowns lose to Mexico's U-20s    
In an appetizer to the MLS all-stars' game against Arsenal, a squad of MLS U-23 Homegrown ...
U.S. Abroad: Five Americans start in Tijuana Copa MX loss    
Tijuana started five Americans in its 4-0 loss to second division Lobos BUAP in Mexico's midweek ...
MLS Moves: Jones jumps ranks at Philadelphia    
Derrick Jones, the first player to sign with the Bethlehem Steel FC, became the first player ...
MLS All-Star Game: Soaking up the experience    
A guy like Sacha Kljestan, an 11-year pro and veteran of the UEFA Champions League with ...
Video Pick: Trick PK goes wrong in Peru    
Last February, Lionel Messi passed a penalty kick to Luis Suarez, who stroked home to complete ...
What They're Saying: Landon Donovan    
"There's a reason you see the passion in this area: Soccer's in their blood now. It ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives