Though Cuba’s debut in Gold Cup stained with irregularities, it fights through to the quarter-finals

Mexico forward Oribe Peralta scores a goal against Cub at Soldier Field, Chicago, July 9, 2015. | Reuters

Mexico forward Oribe Peralta scores a goal against Cuba at Soldier Field, Chicago, July 9, 2015. | Reuters

By TONY SEED

The USA and Cuba may have agreed to normalizing diplomatic relations, but that has not extended to sport due to the hostile attitude of the Obama administration. News agencies report that the United States refused to allow the coach of the Cuban national football team, six players and the team’s doctor for the CONCAF Gold Cup, a regional tournament of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, hosted under FIFA auspices, currently underway in that country. What it shows is that even the domain of sports is being brought under the liquidationist pressure, whereby the modern norms of a level playing field and sportsmanship in competition are being destroyed in order to achieve self-serving political aims.

The problems created by the Obama regime over Cuban visas to enter the United States for a sports competition of the Americas and the Caribbean is a clear step backwards, because visas had been replaced many years earlier in multiple competition events by the sports identification card, a document that eased the accreditation paperwork, especially for large delegations. Many attempts have been made subsequently to implement such a policy, which even the United States put into practice in Indianapolis ’87.

The attempt to obstruct and humiliate a Cuban national sports team occurs in the wake of the recent assault initiated by the U.S. Justice Dept. against leading officials of FIFA  over so-called “corruption” due to the FIFA’s failure to kowtow to the Anglo-American dictate and re-open the 2018 and 2022 World Cups that were lost out on by England (London) and the USA (Boston) to Qatar and Russia. 

As Cuba debuted in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Thursday, July 9 with a heavy but unsurprising 6-0 defeat at the hands of Mexico, a series of inconsistencies and irregularities are being pointed at by analysts as the probable cause of the island’s poor performance.

The 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which is being held July 7-26, is the 13th edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup competition and the 23rd CONCACAF regional championship overall in CONCACAF’s fifty years of existence. It is being hosted by the United States, with two matches being played in Canada, marking the first time the CONCACAF Gold Cup was played in this country.

A total of 12 teams qualified for the tournament. Three berths were allocated to all three North American countries and four to Central America and four to the Caribbean.

Co-hosts Canada were eliminated in the group stage without scoring a single goal. The United States are the defending champions. The competition will include a third place match for the first time since 2003.

Cuba qualified through the 2014 Caribbean Cup. It has a FIFA world ranking of 107th in the world, two ahead of Canada.

TeleSUR reported the following information:

“The squad from Cuba, however, has been forced to face its rivals in the CONCACAF tournament with only 16 players — two of them goal keepers — given that six of its players were not allowed into the United States, where the tournament is taking place. One of the players defected before the game against Mexico.

“The team’s coach, Raul Gonzalez, and their main doctor were not allowed in the country over visa troubles, leaving the Cuban team in disarray and under-equipped.

“During Thursday’s game, Assistant Coach Walter Benitez had to take over the team in a match against the tournament’s favorites Mexico.

“Cuba, better known for its talents in baseball, is participating in its eighth Gold Cup tournament.”

Mexico, ranked 23rd in the FIFA world rankings, easily dominated the match, maintaining 76 per cent possession, and Oribe Peralta scoring a hat trick. TeleSUR noted that, “For its part, Mexico is playing without superstar Javier Hernandez, better known as Chicharito, after he was sidelined with a collarbone injury during a friendly match with Honduras before the start of the Gold Cup tournament.”

Never say die attitude

The Cuban team nevertheless responded with utmost dignity, fought back and has now qualified for the quarter-finals. With their characteristic never say die attitude, they earned three points in Group C.

Cuba is not a stranger to the final eight of the Gold Cup. In 2013, they advanced to the quarter finals before losing to Panama 6-1. Panama went on to beat Mexico in the semi-finals before losing to the USA in the championship game.

In 2013, the Lions of the Caribbean were able to find the back of the net five times on their way to a third place finish. This year Cuba, while fielding a tenacious defence, has only scored once, from Maikel Reyes in the 73rd minute against Guatemala.

Cuba now faces in Baltimore, of all teams, the USA, a team composed of highly paid professionals, with the winner playing against either Haiti or Jamaica. It is a draw that clearly favours the host country, ranked 27th by FIFA.

Yet the US defence has been shaky, leading to German coach Jorge Klinsmen making wholesale changes for the quarter-final match, replacing three players from the squad who have been sent back to their pro teams.

The other pool features Panama facing Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico facing Costa Rica.

Incredibly, the Cuban-US match will be shown today at 5 p.m. on the American Fox TV and the Canadian Rogers’ Sportsnet TV (using a Fox TV feed), due to the fact that the right-wing Murdoch network bought the corporate broadcast rights to the Gold Cup.

While Cuba is playing in prime time in the USA, the monopoly-controlled sports media in the US and Canada has simply blocked out the outstanding performance of its athletes at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto or highlighting, as with Postmedia and the Toronto Sun, the so-called defection of Cuban athletes.

Given the hostile stance of the Obama and Harper regimes to Cuba and the ideals of sportsmanship and friendship amongst the peoples of the Americas, and the outrageous declaration that the USA considers itself to be the “home team” in Toronto, other sinister attempts to defame and isolate Cuba and its athletes are sure to follow.

With files from TeleSUR and Bleacher Report

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