What We're Reading

Two Cubans defect during Olympic qualifiers

  • ESPN.com, Thursday, January 26, 2012 12:10 PM

Jeff Carlisle reports that two members of the Cuban women's national team competing in Canada in Concacaf qualifying for the 2012 Olympics defected to the United States and are asking for political asylum. The players, Yisel Rodriguez, 22, and Yezenia Gallardo, 20, reached the border by taxi at 2 a.m. on Sunday.

"We waited for a distraction of the coaches," Rodriguez told Carlisle. "Then I talked to my roommate (Gallardo), and we decided to go. We tried to take the elevator down to the first floor, but it would only go down to the fifth floor, so we took the stairs down to the street. We hailed a cab and asked him to take us to the border."

The players' passports were in the possession of the Cuban delegation, but Rodriguez said she was able to prove who she was by showing the official her Cuban identity card. She had kept the card hidden in her shoe to avoid detection by the Cuban delegation.

Cuban soccer players have a long history of defecting to the United States while playing in international tournaments. Maykel Galindo defected while playing for Cuba in the 2005 Gold Cup, and seven members of the Cuban U-23 team defected in March 2008. The most recent defection, prior to Rodriguez and Gallardo, was Yosniel Mesa, who defected in June 2011 during the Gold Cup.

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