By Ronal Quinones
HAVANA TIMES – Lorena Vargas is a Cuban girl who is obsessed with soccer. This month, she had planned to follow, and go whenever she could, to a national tournament game which is the top league for women in Cuba. However, those dreams have been cut short for now.
Due to the “temporary situation” the country is experiencing, every tournament scheduled for September was suspended until further notice, except for the Cuban Baseball League and (even though it hasn’t been officially announced yet) a chess tournament that takes place in Bacuranao.
This announcement was made by the vice-president of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER), Omar Venegas, who appeared about a week ago on a national radio station Radio Rebelde, explaining the sports association’s savings plan to tackle the moment at hand.
“We have come up with a series of actions just like other government bodies have. Every scheduled event, such as women’s soccer for example, will be canceled for now, except for the Cuban National Baseball League of course,” he stated.
The official explained that baseball is the only sport that will continue as normal, albeit with some organizational changes.
“The National Series, which is the pride and joy of every Cuban, will maintain its schedule, although we have taken some measures, such as playing only in the provincial capitals, instead of playing a percentage of the games in different municipalities. Likewise, all games will now be played in the afternoons. In order to finish this first round of the League play, 45,000 liters of fuel were needed, which has now been reduced to 11,300 liters.”
INDER’s vice-president also explained that High Performance Sport Centers across the country, as well as Sports Initiation Schools (EIDE) and Schools for Physical Education Teachers (EPEF), have adopted extreme energy-saving measures, but their study plans won’t be affected.
While Lorena’s case might be an isolated one, because there aren’t really very many people who follow women’s soccer in Cuba, we are talking about thousands of people not being able to enjoy our main sport, in the case of baseball in their municipal stadiums.
Osvaldo Fraguela, an employee at a state company, believes that his chances of being able to see a game have become minimal as a result, because all baseball games will now be played while he is at work.
“I’ll only have the weekend now to go to the stadium, but it’s precisely on the weekend when the number of buses on the street drops, and it becomes practically impossible to get anywhere in this city. I won’t even be able to watch them on TV because we aren’t allowed to at my workplace,” this traditional Industriales fan (Havana’s team) says distraughtly.
Alfredo Rosabal, an independent worker at an agro-market was more or less on the same page.
“I finish my working day absolutely exhausted after standing on my feet all day, selling produce and to tell you the truth, I don’t feel like walking to the Estadio Latinoamericano to watch baseball [in the afternoon]. I would go and watch the night-games, even if Industriales weren’t playing, but I can’t even do that now. Then they complain that people aren’t following baseball anymore and are watching soccer instead, but it’s becoming an increasingly uneven battle,” he remarked.
Luckily, sports in other categories will continue, and neighborhood training centers will keep running like normal, because people using them live nearby and they don’t need any extra resources.
Nevertheless, they have still been affected.
Renan Labrada, a boxing trainer, said that there was going to be a face-off with boxers from another Havana municipality this month, but this will be impossible now because of transport problems.
“A baseball game can still go ahead because even if you’re missing a guy, you can always make up a team, but my sport is an individual one, and if the guy doesn’t show, there’s nobody to fight in his weight category, and it’s not advisable that we violate categories when they are so young. We’ve had to do it sometimes because we’ve had no other choice, but a kid got injured once because I made him fight against another one who was in a higher weight category and I definitely won’t do that again,” he said.
“Luckily, we can train like normal because nearly all of them live nearby, as do I, because if the gym were far away from me then I wouldn’t be able to come every day either, and that would be serious because we’d all get too far behind. They’re talking about a couple of days, but we know how things go in this country and I wouldn’t be surprised if this went on for a while. Just the other day, (president Miguel) Diaz-Canel said that the energy-saving measures were here to stay. He didn’t go into too much detail, but it seems to me like this business of being “temporary” is going to become permanent,” he said.
In a brief tour of the community sports facilities, I could see that activities were running more or less normally, but Labrada said that it might be a different story in other parts of Cuba, although parents normally find a way to resolve these kinds of problems.
However, the control measures being applied today complicate everything, because if a driver could put away a couple of liters of gasoline to make his own private journeys on the side, it’s really hard to do that today.
September has been hard on everyone, and according to the Cuban government, signs of improvement can be seen, but we’ll have to wait and see if things return to normal.
The 18th Hispanidad Golf Tournament is scheduled to take place on October 4th, at the Varadero Golf Club. I’d be surprised if it were canceled, but even so, it doesn’t mean to say that we’ve left this “temporary situation” behind us. The definitive answers to these questions might come in the coming hours.