For the first time ever, the Asociación de Fútbol de Cuba has begun negotiations with Liga MX to allow Cubans to play in Mexico. According to a recent report from fan site Vamos Cruz Azul, the Cruz Azul might be one of the first beneficiaries of the talks. This is a big deal.
Two of the players profiting from these discussions are 22-year-old forward Maykel Reyes and U-23 left back Abel Martínez. Reyes is a Pinar del Río native and scorer of the lone goal in Cuba’s historic 1-0 victory over Guatemala at the Gold Cup this past summer, and both players are currently taking part in Cruz Azul’s preseason rumbo al Clausura 2016.
The fate of their professional fútbol careers lies in the hands of the Cuban government, which has historically prohibited athletes from emigrating to other countries since the triumph of the Cuban revolution. Although we might often equate fútbol cubano with goleadas and general ruin, the island country does have a respectable history in the sport. Cuba made the 1938 World Cup in Italy – defeating Romania by a score of 2-1 – and at least 10 Cubans were playing in Mexico during the 40s (José Antonio Rodríguez, Manuel Gil Fernández, Juan Tuñas, Juan Ayra, Manuel González, Fernando Blanco, Edelmiro Arnauda, Pedro Arnauda, Ovidio Arnauda, and Jorge Romo). More recently, Cuba won the 2012 Caribbean Cup, and, let’s not forget, reached the quarterfinals of this year’s Gold Cup. It has its own domestic league as well – the Campeonato Nacional de Fútbol de Cuba – which has been in existence for over 100 years.