Soccer gradually usurping baseball in Cuba: Report

A shot by United States forward Jordan Morris (11) bounces off the face of Cuba defender Dario Ramos (16) past Cuba goalkeeper Nelson Johnston (21) for a goal in the first half during a CONCACAF Nations League soccer match at Audi Field, Washington, DC, USA on Oct. 11, 2019.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports, file

Soccer, known worldwide as football, like many Caribbean islands, is slowly becoming a sport of choice in baseball stronghold, Cuba, according to FIFA.com.

For many years, FIFA.com said Cuba has been most known for producing top-class baseball players.

“At this moment, football is liked like baseball in Cuba,” Cuba Football Federation President, Luis Hernandez told Front Row Soccer. “The children, young people like football very much. If the national team of Cuba gets good results in this tournament [World Cup qualifying], more people will like football.”

FIFA said that Cuba is embarking on their FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying journey, “where they will navigate a tricky looking Group C in the first round of CONCACAF’S qualifiers.”

They started their campaign with a narrow 1-0 defeat by Guatemala in Guatemala City.

“Although the national team’s last, and only, FIFA World Cup™ appearance was at France 1938, where the Cubans edged past Romania into the quarter-finals only to be on the wrong end of an 8-0 humbling by Sweden, things are starting to look up in terms of regional results,” FIFA said.

It said Cuba won the Caribbean Cup for the first time in 2012, before the regional tournament was abolished in favor of the new CONCACAF Nations League.

FIFA said the Lions of the Caribbean have also consistently qualified for the bi-annual CONCACAF Gold Cup since 1998, only missing out three times since.

“Cuba can now also boast of having a player with Premier League experience in Norwich City’s Onel Hernandez,” FIFA said.

It said that, although the Canaries are now playing in a division below, a return to the top flight looks inevitable.

“So, it is feasible that Hernandez could be scoring goals in one of the top leagues in world football again later this year,” FIFA said. “And in the country’s latest national team squad, there have been call-ups for players plying their trade in Spain, San Marino, USA and Brazil.”

“We have so many kids in Cuba that love football, and they want to live the dream that I lived,” Hernandez told the New York Times.

FIFA said Cuba’s history at the top of the game “stretches way back.”

It said there were four Cubans on the first ever Real Madrid side founded in 1902.

“And if the ubiquity of young children playing football across Havana’s streets and pitches is anything to go by, there could be 21st-century heroes suiting up for Los Blancos in the near future,” FIFA said.

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