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.