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Yendry Diaz's match of freedom

Latest update : 2008-03-17

Yendry Diaz Perez, 20-years-old, a player from the Cuban football delegation, take advantage of an Olympic Games selection match in Florida to leave his team and country and stay in the US. He tells his story.

Yendry Diaz Perez (#5 in blue in the photo) is a “traitor” to some. He prefers to see himself as a “free man.” Twenty-years old, he is one of seven players from the Cuban team under 23 who, on March 12th, deserted the hotel where the team was staying in Florida  to play a an Olympic qualifying match in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football zone (CONCACAF).

With one of his teammates, Eder Roldan, he follows the lead of five other players who have made up their minds to stay in the land of Uncle Sam. Among them, goalie José Manuel Miranda and the midfielders Erlys Garcia Baró, Yordany Alvarez, Loanni Cartaya Prieto as well as the captain, Yenier Bermudez.

“Just my shoes to play in”

“I’d been thinking about this for several months already,” says Yendry Diaz. “But because things were going well in the Cuban delegation, I took advantage of the moment to leave. Friends offered me the chance to stay here and I accepted. I am a free man.” The Cuban defensive player has almost nothing to call his own: “Just my shoes to play in.”

He left his family behind, and carries with him a regret: “The team dreamed of qualifying for the Olympic Games, but that, I couldn’t give them,” he confides. His defection, and that of his teammates, puts the Cuban team in a delicate position. The team doesn’t have more than 11 players, including Roberto Linares, who received a red card. The director of the Cuban Football Federation, Antonio Garces, speaks of “a traitorous and irresponsible act.” Diaz defends himself, saying, “given that five players had decided to leave, there was nothing else I could do.”

Today, he has elected to live in Tampa, on the west coast of Florida, the state with the most significant Cuban population in the United States. “I have a lot of friends here who appreciate me. And this is also where my girlfriend lives,” he says, revealing the other motivation for leaving Matanzas, to the west of Havana.

"There is nothing in the world that would make me return to Cuba.”

And his thoughts on the Castro regimes of Fidel and now brother Raùl? Diaz would prefer not to talk about it. In any case, he is more football than politics. “Today, my sole goal is to become a professional player for a good club to get into the MLS (Major League Soccer).”

Maybe he will follow the path of Maykel Galindo, who, during a match of the national Cuban team in Seattle, decided to stay in the U.S. Today he plays for a team in a Los Angeles suburb, Chivas USA, and has become one of the best scorers in the league.

Et le régime castriste, et Fidel, et Raùl ? Yendry Diaz préfère ne pas en parler. Il est de toute façon plus football que politique. "Aujourd'hui, mon seul but c'est de devenir joueur professionnel dans un bon club pour décrocher la MLS (ligue professionnelle américaine)".

Diaz doesn’t yet know for whom he’ll play. He’s also going to try to obtain a visa, something that Maykel Galindo still doesn’t have. Cuban immigrants in the US are considered under the “wet foot, dry foot” law, which automatically guarantees residency permits to Cubans who are able to touch their foot to American soil. “I don’t know if I will get it,” he admits, however. For the moment, he has just one certitude. “There is nothing that would make me return to Cuba.”

Date created : 2008-03-17