New Hope for Cuba Soccer, or just Ball Handling?

Dmitri Prieto

HAVANA TIMES, Jan 4 — An 11-year-old kid from Ciego de Avila Province, Fredo de Jesus Sanchez, has just been proclaimed a rising star in Cuban soccer.

Following the recent centenary of the official recognition of this sport in Cuba, online publications (TV Avila and the Invasor newpaper) as well as the national television news reported on the achievement of the boy, who set a record in ball control by bouncing it 2,220 times off of his body in little more than 20 minutes.

It turns out that in Ciego de Avila there even exists a school for ball bouncing (the Escuela Provincial de Toques del Balon, or EPTB). When I saw the TV interview with Fredo de Jesus, I felt a bit frustrated. The teen said he likes soccer, considers himself a fan and confessed that his dream was to play at the World Cup level.

In fact, he said he had fallen in love with soccer during the 2010 World Cup.

However, his current sporting pursuit is ball control, and the adults present in his interview made no secret of their hopes to see Fredo become a star in that sport.

Previously, I touched on the issue in a post 2010, pointing out how Cuba possesses two record holders in bouncing soccer balls in various positions (though unfortunately we don’t have good results on the soccer field).

There are those who insist on the official existence in Cuba of a “school for ball control.” The corresponding records — normally posted in prestigious hotels, of which Fredo’s feat was no exception — are presented as major achievements in Cuban sports.

For me, however, these constitute signs of a curious exoticism that hampers the growing popularity of soccer in our country.

These actions come off as something folkloric, sensational…and frustrating.

Of course, there’s room in the Guinness Book for everything, and the efforts by ball handlers is admirable, but I think that few fans would ever exchange their dream of seeing Cuba in a World Cup event for the satisfaction of the successes of such record holders.

In his interview on Ciego de Avila TV, Fredo confessed: “It’s true that I can control the ball well, but I would like to be playing soccer… I want to be like Messi, otherwise I intend to follow in the footsteps of the Hernandez brothers (Douglas and Erik) in ball handling.”

Isn’t it frustrating to see how adults’ interests shape the destinies of our children?

Which of his two options would give more happiness to Fredo and “ordinary” citizens?

And which seems to fit more into the statistical ruse of bogus accomplishments that is adored so much by both “our” bureaucrats and the mass media?



Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov has 254 posts and counting. See all posts by Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

One thought on “New Hope for Cuba Soccer, or just Ball Handling?

  • Dimitri I will sponsor one Junior soccer team in Downtown Havana if this is an option, (for one year) please let me know, yours Hans

Comments are closed.