Cuban Player Defects to the United States After Rose Bowl Gold Cup Match

Published : Thursday, June 20, 2019 | 4:58 AM

Yasmani Lopez. Courtesy

Midfielder and team captain Yasmani Lopez defected from the Cuban national team Saturday night after his team lost, 7-0, against Mexico at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, coach Raul Mederos confirmed Tuesday.

Lopez, who wears jersey No. 4 on the team, joined a list of Cuban athletes who have defected in recent years, taking advantage of different international events abroad.

Mederos made the announcement in Denver on the eve of Cuba’s second meeting against Martinique.

“Regarding Yasmani’s case, it was his decision,” Mederos said. “None of the other members of the team – we are 30 – had anything to do with it. It was his decision; he took it and made it.”

The team wasn’t complete when it entered the Gold Cup since midfielder Yordan Cruz was denied an entry visa to the United States, an AFP report said.

Lopez, 31, debuted with the national team in the 2013 Gold Cup against Belize and was a key player. He has been capped 28 times, scoring a single goal and has participated in five Gold Cup games.

After their defeat by the Mexicans, Lopez had said, “We only come to the field to give what we have, giving the heart.”

Cuba currently occupies the basement of Group A in the Gold Cup after the defeat at the Rose Bowl. The team plays its second game against Martinique at Denver’s Broncos Stadium Wednesday.

Cuban athletes have a long history of defecting while participating in sports events in the United States and Canada.

In 2015, several members of Cuba’s Gold Cup squad defected during the tournament.

Under an old “wet feet, dry feet” policy of the U.S. government, any Cuban player who set foot in the United States was entitled to become a US resident.

One of the earlier defectors was Maykel Galindo, who said players leave Cuba “because they want to make something out of their lives.”

“They are in search of the dream of playing football at a professional level and they know that Cuba will not offer them that,” Galindo said. “They do it because they feel that their family will be proud of them if they make it to the professional level and many of those players have realized that they can achieve that goal.”

The “wet feet, dry feet” policy ended in January 2017.

As a general rule, Cuban players who defect are not allowed to rejoin the Cuban national team for international matches, the AFP report said. Players who defect are generally ineligible to play for the U.S. team, since FIFA eligibility rules only allow a player to play for one national team during his career.

Cuba’s game against Mexico Saturday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena had an estimated attendance of 65,527.


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