Jan
17
2008
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Cuba – The Football Revolution

Cuba’s passion for sport is palpable all over the island. The difference these days is that Cuba’s traditional preference for baseball and boxing is being replaced by football fever.

Ronaldinho stands over the ball with Ballack in front of him, he passes to Totti and shoots as Messi comes towards him, the goal, is wide open … Goal! Gooooal!This scene is not talien from an exliibition match between the FIFA XI and the Rest of the World, but rather from a lively kick-about in the Paseo del Prado, just metres away from Havana’s famous Malecon promenade. Hie players are not in fact the world’s biggest stars but a group of children enjoying themselves while at the same time giving voice to their footballing dreams.
Cuba’s passion for sport is plain to see in every corner of every city on the island. The difference these days is that Cuba’s traditional preference for baseball and boxing is being replaced by a wave of football fever. According to FlFAs 2006 Big Count, more than ten per cent of Cubans play football. But it does not stop there — they are also enthusiastic followers of the Spanish league and the UEFA Champions League and became fanatical supporters of Brazil and Argentina during the last Copa America.
In competitive sport, Cuba came third (behind the Bahamas and Australia) in terms of the number of medals per inhabitant won at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and have consistently been in the top three since 1972. In the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Cuba came top of the medals per inhabitant table, despite the fact that the country’s gross domestic product was several times lower than the rest of the competing nations. Football is also on the rise, as illustrated by its growth in recent years.