Alfredo Fernandez

Cuban soccer fans. Photo: Irina Echarry

Over the last few weeks the world has had its mind on a ball, specifically a soccer ball. Thirty-two countries have gathered in South Africa with each attempting to take home the World Cup, the winner will be pointed to as the best team on the planet for the next four years.

Every time this event is held, one observation has become customary among many Cubans.  To us, what is impressive is not so much the teams that participate in the competition, but the fans that accompany them to such matches.

Cubans cannot but view with astonishment the thousands and thousands of people who follow their teams to the far ends of the earth to rally behind them.  Though we here on the island do not have precise data on the origin of those followers, their behavior in the stands suggests to us that they’re ordinary people and, consequently, workers.

People here say that the fans from Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Uruguay save their very last dime to accompany their teams to the World Cup. Once they obtain the money for their flight and for renting a cheap hotel, nothing can prevent them from following their teams.

In this particular sport, I only watch the World Cup competition.  My passion is baseball.  I follow the Cuban team and, like so many other Cubans, would love to be rooting for them at a world event.  This is why I would be willing to painstakingly save for the next World Baseball Classic (set for 2013).  Likewise, I would reserve a hotel in the country where this would take place, and with pleasure I would paint my body with the colors of our flag to show my support for my team.

This, however, is impossible.  I would need a letter of invitation from someone from the country that is organizing the event, and then I would have to suffer the trials and tribulations of the Cuban immigration bureaucracy.  All this is without mentioning the fare I would have to pay, a price impossible for me on my ridiculous wage [the average Cuban take-home wage is around US $20 a month].

This is why I’ll continue resigning myself to being a fan who watches the games of world soccer and baseball always on TV.

Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.

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