Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America 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


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
What They're Saying    
"Everyone wants to get through the first round: That's our goal. Jurgen [Klinsmann] has said, 'Our ...
Scores PK, plows down coach, red-carded    
[VIDEO PICK: Off the Post] In Scotland, Hearts captain Jamie Hamill converted a penalty kick against ...
Fox Sports named AYSO premier sponsor    
[SOCCER BUSINESS] The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) has concluded a wide-ranging partnership with Fox Sports, ...
U.S. U-20s fall to River Plate in Super Group final    
[DALLAS CUP] The U.S. under-20 national team dropped a 2-0 decision to River Plate in the ...
Noyola and Souza team up for first Dash victory    
[NWSL: Week 2] The expansion Houston Dash got two goals from Teresa Noyola to rally for ...
Will Johnson: Timbers must face the reality    
[MLS SPOTLIGHT] The Portland Timbers remain winless in seven games after another loss to old nemesis ...
Los Dos move into top spot    
[USL PRO: Week 5] LA Galaxy II got goals from Galaxy loan players Charlie Rugg and ...
Boyd scores twice, Bedoya adds goal in big Nantes win    
[AMERICANS ABROAD] Terrence Boyd scored two goals -- his first goals in seven weeks -- as ...
Girls soccer handle takes on life of its own    
[SOCIAL MEDIA WATCH] SoccerGirlProblems (@SoccerGrlProbs) launched in 2011 to tweet humorously about the soccer problems of ...
De Grandpre returns to Red Bulls    
[MLS SPOTLIGHT] Marc de Grandpre is back with the New York Red Bulls, having been hired ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives