7 Cuban Soccer Players Defect to US

Five are already in talks with pro team in Miami

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 13, 2008 12:27 PM CDT

(Newser) – Seven Cuban soccer players defected from the national team over the last two days—five on Tuesday and two last night—slipping from their Tampa hotel after a game to seek asylum in the US, the Miami Herald reports. The first five have contacted a lawyer and are in discussions with a second-tier soccer team, Miami FC; they may start training as soon as today, Reuters reports. The loss of seven players could be the team’s downfall in Olympic trials.

“Anytime a Cuban team comes to the United States, there's a chance someone might defect,” said a Miami soccer coach who scouted the players during a 1-1 tie with the US. Even the players' families didn't know they'd defect. “My heart will be in Cuba with my family, but I want to have the freedom to better my life, to play professional soccer, to be the best I can be,” said the former captain, Yenier Bermudez.

The US's Freddy Adu (11) fights with Cuba midfielder Yordany Alvarez (10) as Cuban Enrique, back left, and the US's Dax McCarty, back right, trail in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday, March 11, 2008.   (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)
Cuba goalie Jose Manuel Miranda makes a save during the first half of a CONCACAF men's Olympic qualifying soccer match against the United States in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday, March 11, 2008.   (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)
Nicolas Fedor (L) of Venezuela fights for the ball with Cuban Yenier Bermudez during their XX Central American and Caribbean games match July 17, 2006.   (Getty Images)
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