The soaring interest in football in Cuba does not discriminate sexually, women here enjoy and play “the beautiful game” and dare to dream of Olympic or World Cup glory...or at the very least of a crowd turning up to watch them play.
In fact, a Cuban ladies football game very rarely attracts even 100 fans, something taken by the national team – of a game practiced by women in Cuba for more than 6 decades -- to be just another obstacle to overcome.
On the June 8, 1951, the old La Tropical stadium in Havana played host to the first women‘s football match in Cuba between Deportivo Cuba and La Habana, a training game that ended in a 1-1 draw. Despite the years that have passed, not many female football stars have fallen from the sky, partly because this has always been a game for men...
If at all, young and adolescent girls only ever kicked a ball in a variation of baseball colloquially called “quiquinbol”, in which bats were feet. Sometimes, although only at the most junior levels, agile and daring girls with fancy foot-work might be tolerated by the boys.
With a development project that incorporated the game into the educational curriculum and inter-school, juvenile and senior level championships towards the end of the 1990s, women‘s football began to make a gradual comeback. One of the game’s best champions, Jose Luis Eleialde, has always believed in its potential.
For example, some of the best players in the squad that are now competing for a ticket to Rio-2016 Olympics, such as defender Yairelis Mena, winger Roxana Gala, and forward Ollancy Arrebato, have come up through the juvenile ranks, forming part of a whole characterized for its offensive style and momentum.
Nevertheless, the Cuban best is yet to come when the generation born as the 20th century drew to a close enter the Sporting Initiation Schools at younger ages that favor the integral development of footballing skills.
As is the case with almost all sporting disciplines, the earlier you start the better.
The girls will still have a long and torturous path to tread. Aside from a lack of resources and top level pitches is the shortage of international games and competitions.
The lack of suitable rivals means that they must play to empty terraces on ploughed up pitches against teams of boys between the ages of 14 and 15.Even so, the women’s football team ranking, at 98th in the word, is better than their masculine counterparts at 119th.
The arrangement to play at home against the Dominican Republic, in preparation for official games against Guyana and Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean eliminators for Rio-2016, was a step in the right direction.
More important than the result is that this at last represents incorporation into the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean (CONCACAF) games against countries where football is the national sport.Share on FB Share on TT