Sports: A People’s Right and a Political Weapon

Osmel Almaguer

USA and Cuba at the 2011 World Cup. Photo:

Though we sometimes forget, most sports are miniature versions of war, each covering a particular combat situation.

In track and field, for example, what are recreated are the skills of battle: jumping, throwing and running. In the case of combat sports, the situation is obviously even clearer cut. Even in ball games the players must defend a given territory, while the pieces on a chess board reflect a mental battle.

As if this weren’t enough, the rivalries take place between different regions or countries, with the outcomes hinting at the economic and social power embodied in the skills and physical abilities of the competitors.

Although today’s wars are just as bloody as those of the past, modern sports practices have created a great opportunity to put each discipline in the hands of different political opponents as weapons for their ideological subtleties.

Thus when competitions between Cuba and the US are broadcast in a shameful display of “them vs. us” by our Radio Rebelde, they are extending sports into the government’s policy of war.

Baseball has been the preferred battlefield by both governments over these past fifty years. However, as folks in Cuba metaphorically comment, “We (the people) have been the ball being batted around in that game.”

From the US they’ve blockaded us; but we’re also blockaded here– though everybody denies blockading anybody. Even my mind seems blockaded. If not, why would I spend a couple of hours every night trying to listen to the pirated broadcasts that Radio Marti tries to transmit over here — and succeeds at doing just that — instead of listening to Radio Rebelde?

But the two governments seem even more blocked than us. Why doesn’t our government realize that they need to open the doors of our sports to the world and send not only players but athletes in general to play in foreign leagues? Why doesn’t our government see the advantage of covering, instead of ignoring, the best professional baseball in the world?

No one is a saint here. While we condemn our players who emigrate, banning them, they’re received on the other side as “victims,” and those who accept these “poor fugitives” are seen as “saviors.”

As just another one of our people, I note all of this and I get tired. Though every year I show up at the stadium to cheer our various teams, inside I’m still tired.

And though it seems I’m not aware, I don’t forget that the world isn’t divided into North and South, East and West, or socialism and capitalism.

The world has historically been divided into those who have power and those who don’t. And the former are always thinking about how to screw the rest of us.