Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySoccer World DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America ClassifiedsGame Report
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



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



Recent Soccer America Daily
Johnson scores again in Champions League    
Fabian Johnson scored in his second straight game for Borussia Moenchengladbach in the UEFA Champions League ...
Coach Michelle French names 20 for U-20 Women's World Cup qualifying    
Eight collegians and 12 youth club players comprise Coach Michelle French's roster for the U-20 Women's ...
MLS preseason returns to Tucson in 2016    
Ten MLS teams will take part in preseason training in Tucson, Arizona, where the 2016 Desert ...
Ellis calls up Colaprico and Lavelle for first time    
U.S. women's national team coach Jill Eilis called in 28 players -- 20 who went to ...
What They're Saying: Chris Dangerfield    
'We used to go to movies, have cups of tea, strange things you do when you ...
What They're Saying: Tim Leiweke    
"I think we have found a site. It's probably different than what people think we're doing, ...
Video Pick: How Ronaldo gets treated by customs     
Cristiano Ronaldo doesn't seem to have a difficult time getting through customs, as demonstrated by this ...
NASL's Jacksonville banks on Tony Meola    
Hall of Fame goalkeeper Tony Meola, whose previous coaching experience since retiring as a player in ...
Video Pick: Messi proves he's fully recovered    
Lionel Messi, out of Barcelona's starting lineup for two months because of a knee injury, scored ...
Red Bulls' success nets Marsch Coach of the Year honors    
Inexperienced head coaches don't often flourish in MLS, yet in just his second season as a ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives