Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySoccer World DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America Classifieds
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Cuba promises 'warm welcome'
by Mike Woitalla, September 6th, 2008 11:55AM

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

Mike Woitalla reports from Havana
The corrugated metal roof of Pedro Marrero Stadium, damaged by Hurricane Gustav, was being fixed by brave acrophobia-free men and fortunately no one was hit when one of the panels fell down.

Others carried hundreds of plastic deck chairs into the stadium for the front rows.

But busiest of all were the two men who cut the entire field by pushing around the kind of two-stroke engine lawnmowers more appropriate for a backyard grass. And what thanks do they get?

"The grass is a little long," said U.S. coach Bob Bradley on the eve of his team's World Cup qualifier against Cuba.

"The field's not great," said midfielder DaMarcus Beasley. "It's hard, bumpy, but hopefully they'll cut the grass tomorrow."

Don't bet on it. Wouldn't be enough time.

Also on Friday, the ESPN crew scrambled to set up their equipment after having to wait on Friday morning for the electricity to be turned on because fuel was needed for the generator.

Before their Friday practice, several U.S. players took taxis from the Hotel Melia Cohiba to Old Havana and some bought paintings at an outdoor market. Artwork is one of the few items that may be brought back to the USA from Cuba.

The stadium (capacity: 17,000) was opened in 1930 to host the Central American and Caribbean Games. It was called the Cerveza Tropical Stadium and was used for baseball, soccer and track & field.

After the revolution it was renamed Estadio Pedro Marrero after Fidel Castro's friend, who died in 1953 in the Moncada Garrison attack. The unsuccessful July 26 assault, in which Marrero drove the vanguard car, was the first armed insurrection against the military dictatorship by the Castro-led rebels.

In 2004, the facility was revamped with funds from FIFA's Goal Program and serves as headquarters of the Cuban soccer federation. Among the items in the trophy case is the passport of Mario Lopez, a star of Cuba's 1938 World Cup. That squad, whose other key players were immigrants from Spain, beat and tied Romania before losing to Sweden, 8-0, in the quarterfinals.

It was the only World Cup appearance by Cuba, which did have teams at the 1989 and 1991 U-17 boys World Cup. FIFA technical reports from those tournaments are included in the trophy case, as is a 2004 United Soccer League media guide.

Cuban federation president Luis Hernandez played for Cuba in the 1970s for 10 years and was its playmaker. Highlights of his career included victories over the USA in the 1971 and 1979 Pan American Games.

"But the United States soccer wasn't as it is now," says Hernandez. "Now you have many excellent players and play high quality soccer. We have looked very closely at how soccer has developed in the United States and are very impressed with the game at all levels."

The running track around the Pedro Marrero Stadium means its fans are far from the field. It's not a layout conducive to creating intimidating atmosphere for visiting teams.

"The U.S. team will have a very warm welcome here in Cuba," says Hernandez. "Your team's best plays will be cheered.

"We have great respect your team. But the best way to show you respect is to beat you on the field."



No comments yet.

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




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
Klinsmann: 'We did a lot of good stuff'    
The USA's 3-2 loss at Denmark on Wednesday gives Coach Jurgen Klinsmann's team a post-2014 World ...
TV Report: ESPN3 will air 120-plus NASL games    
ESPN3 will carry a minimum of 120 North American Soccer League games during the 2015 season, ...
Road to Russia: Heroics from U.S. collegians and prep star    
Heroics by a pair of former U.S. college goalkeepers highlighted the start of the long World ...
MLS Week 4: Vancouver loses Manneh for Timbers' match    
Vancouver will be without young Gambian star Kekuta Manneh for Saturday's Cascadia Cup game against Portland ...
French Guiana stuns Honduras in Gold Cup playoff    
Not so fast yet on that USA-Honduras match to open the Gold Cup. French Guiana, which ...
World Cup on ESPN garners six Sports Emmy nominations    
ESPN received six Sports Emmy Award nominations for its coverage of the 2014 World Cup from ...
Rewind: Breaking down the USA's late-game collapses    
The USA continued its recent trend of late collapses with the worst one of all, blowing ...
Video Pick: Too much celebration proves costly    
Players from Mozambique club Ferroviario Maputo celebrated so much after scoring against Zambia's K-Stars they weren't ...
What They're Saying: Jason Kreis    
"I'm a huge fan of Xavi Hernandez. I think he would be a huge player in ...
Tulsa brewer handcrafts Roughnecks Pale Ale    
The USL's Tulsa Roughnecks will offer Roughnecks Pale Ale, brewed by Tulsa-based craft brewer Marshall Brewing ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives