History was made last night as the New York Cosmos became the first professional American soccer team to play in Cuba since their last trip their in 1978. The Cosmos dominated the Cuban side 4-1 but the result wasn’t the priority on Tuesday evening. This match was about making Cubans feel that they are a part of the world.
Today’s Cuba is no longer as tied to baseball as much as it was in the past. For younger Cubans, the sport allows them to connect with the rest of the world as the communist nation opens its borders and liberalises its economy.
The ceremonial match was organised as a “goodwill” mission, and comes just days after the US moved the Cuban government off of its state sponsor of terrorism list. The diplomatic envoy greeted by the Cuban team included Pele, and Raul, who many Cubans idolise from his years at Real Madrid.
The Cosmos have a history of traveling to Cuba, having been one of only two American sports team to play exhibition match in Havana since the economic embargo in 1961. The Baltimore Orioles played the Cuban national baseball team in 1999, and the two are expected to play again later this year.
This story is emblematic of the power of the beautiful game. Football, a game that is in many ways foreign to both Cuba and America, has been the only thing capable of bringing the two countries together over the last half-century. Although the Pedro Marrero Stadium was sparsely attended due to poor weather, the game should still be considered a hands down success.