Friday, September 5, 2008
The heat is on
Something is coming to the mysterious island of faith and melancholy, to the indifferent streets, from the fort to the city, from the sacred waters of the Caribbean, to the Central Park where rest the bones of Jose Marti.
The ancient Chevys that run by a miracle, the balconies where the women watch, the neighborhoods that time forgot, with people who have yet to show much passion for soccer. It’s far away in Havana where people still argue why Cuba lost the gold medal in baseball versus South Korea.
They argue, they debate, they laugh and yell. The hot topics on the street corners – U.S. versus Cuba in soccer doesn’t exist there.
They just put the lights on in the stadium, where the home team took their final practice. Cuba lost its last qualifying match – versus Trinidad and Tobago. They’re well aware that on Saturday night, they are playing for a lot.
This team always comes ready to play. We know we’re facing a great rival. Beyond that, it’s the United States. These matches are always motivating. We want to do this.
The sun beats down unrelentingly. The historic scene unfolded last night. A U.S. soccer team, for the first time in decades, came to Cuba, to the hotel Melia (oooh, free advertising).
LD: We don’t know them well. It’s been three years since we faced them in the Gold Cup. We know that they’re very athletic, fast and large. But tactically, I don’t think they play so well. If we can keep the game scoreless for a while, the match should open up and then we can score goals and win the game. We should win. But if the game is tied for a long time, well, we’ll take the draw. But we want the three points.
Faitelson: Even if soccer isn’t the primary sport here in Cuba, it’s the U.S. versus Cuba in Havana for the first time. That’s saying a lot.