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!