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Tim Cole

Former British Ambassador to Cuba

Part of UK in Cuba

25th May 2014 Havana, Cuba

Cuba, England needs you!

Next month the World Cup kicks off in Brazil and billions of football fans, including millions of Cubans, will be watching it. The last and only time Cuba made it to the finals was in 1938 in France when they beat Rumania in the first round and then lost heavily to Sweden (8-0 – ouch!) in the second round. Unfortunately the national team didn’t qualify for Brazil 2014 so Cuban football fans all over the world will, I imagine, be wondering who to support.

Out of regional solidarity, many Cubans will probably think of cheering for one of the Latin American teams – perhaps Brazil or Argentina, two of the tournament favourites. Others, given the popularity of Barcelona and Real Madrid, might support Spain, the reigning world champions. I’m not sure many Cubans, even those living in Florida, will support the United States team – they’ve got a tough group with matches against Germany, Portugal and Ghana so I suspect they’ll be going home early. Some Cubans might support Italy, who normally aren’t much fun to watch but quite often do well, or Germany, who yet again have a strong, young team. But the only team it really makes sense for Cubans to support is England. Here’s why.

The first very good reason is that the British introduced football to Cuba. Not in 1762 when we occupied Havana for 11 months but in the early 1900s when Brits with names like Forrester and Campbell were living here. The first two Cuban teams set up were SC Hatuey and Rovers AC and the first official match between them took place on 11 December 1911 at the Campo de Palatino in Cerro. Rovers won 1-0 with a very British-sounding Jack Orrs scoring the winning goal. The year before, acccording to Cuban football historians, SC Hatuey played a match against sailors from a visiting British boat. The sailors lost rather badly – also 8-0 – so I suspect they had already had a chance to sample some good Cuban rum.

A second reason for Cubans to support us is that football was invented in England. At least that’s what we English like to think. Actually football-type games were played in Ancient Greece, Rome, China, Japan and probably by the Tainos long before we English started playing it. But the codification of the game – the rules etc – were established in England in the middle of the 19th century so I think we can lay claim to being the inventors of the modern game as we know it.

Reason number 3 is that like Cuba today the England team is racially diverse with an emphasis on youth. Also, just as in Cuba, the manager has years of experience and the team is built around a strong defence. The final reason is that England really needs all the help we can get. We’ve got a tough group with Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica. We’re perennial underachievers in the World Cup having won it only once in 1966. And we’re really not that good.

So, please Cuba, support us! Altogether now…..Come on England!

8 comments on “Cuba, England needs you!

  1. very good article i didnt know football was introduced in cuba by british i am cuban i like football i love the world cup 1966 how the british defeated all the great countries in their own country ill support england when they play again in another football match

  2. The majority of Cubans are fans of Brazil. We unfortunately we were humiliated in the world championship. Almost cried that day. I do not remember … We hope to have more luck next.
    regards C. Omar

  3. Very interesting article, with historic data unknown for many. Cubans-British support the English Team of football, and we desire it successes in the next World Cup in Brazil. Likewise we support the desires of the English ex-footballer David Beckham to build a football stadium in Miami.
    Gool for England! Gool for Beckham! GOOOOL!

  4. I’ll go with the UK and not the Ukip. And, Ambassador, the occupation gave us the phrase «la hora de los mameyes» based on the curfew imposed by the British and the colour of their uniforms. Listen to the cannon, sir, I am too far away to hear it.

  5. I would like to support England, really…yet… Uruguay has a very especial place in my heart… we will see what happens… who knows and the Cuban hearts could be conquered again by the magic of the English football… I will put my thoughts on it..


  6. Dear Tim ,
    a really nice , interesting report. Plus and thank you : written in this typical touch of British droll humour. Well & OK , Cuba didn ´t achieved it to play at the next Football World Cup next month in Brazil. On the other side : some things – normally the best ones – do just take a little bit more time to develop. That ´s why we ´ll see Cuba in 2018 / Russia. I do bet.
    Most notable to me is , that all yr. smart lines are easy to read/understand and sthg. like a trip into the past – even in ancient times. (Or ancient areas like “Greece or Japan”. ) So also a football history “book”. To conclude : Well Sir , for well known reasons it ´s nearly impossible for me to write sthg. ´bout England ´s – so far – 1st. and only World Cup Victory in ´66. But one single, little line will also do : I will support England in Brazil too – and “they” will hate me for that like in 2010 (…so that I will have quite a lot of fun during the
    games…!) . Best wishes & have a good start into yr. working week, liebste Grüßle ond oin guter Montagstart, Ingo-Steven , Stuttgart

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About Tim Cole

Hi! I’m Tim Cole, the British Ambassador to Cuba. I arrived in Havana in August 2012 and presented my credentials as British Ambassador the following month. I’ve been a diplomat…

Hi! I’m Tim Cole, the British Ambassador to Cuba. I arrived in Havana in August 2012 and presented my credentials as British Ambassador the following month. I’ve been a diplomat since 2001; before Cuba, I spent 5 years in London where I worked on Pan-African policy and global economic issues and 6 years in southern Africa as Deputy Head of Mission in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Most of my career has been in Africa as before joining the FCO I ran humanitarian aid programmes in Central Africa for the British NGOs Christian Aid and Save the Children. I’m married to Clare and we have 2 children – Jonathan and Zea.

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