HAVANA TIMES — The NBA opened the first training academy of a professional US basketball league in Cuba on Thursday, made possible by the diplomatic thaw between Washington and Havana, reported dpa.
“Our trip to Cuba this week is a historic journey,” said Congolese former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo in the opening ceremony of the four day event (until April 26) in the Cuban capital.
“As you know, basketball is a bridge that can unite people,” said Mutombo at the University of the Physical Culture Sciences and Sports in Havana. Alongside him was Steve Nash, twice chosen the NBA’s Most Valuable Player and Ticha Penicheiro, Portuguese legend of the women’s basketball league in the United States (WNBA).
“Hopefully this is the initial jump for a future project,” said meanwhile Alberto Andrés García, regional director for the Americas of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), co-organizer of the event.
“It is important to recognize the work both governments are doing,” Garcia said about political rapprochement between Cuba and the United States.
The US delegation is comprised of ten representatives of the NBA, including Quin Sneyder, coach of the Utah Jazz, and James Borrego, of the Orlando Magic, as well as Victor Ojeda, director of the Basketball Academy of the Americas.
At the opening ceremony were also historical figures of Cuban sports including boxer Felix Savon and world high jump record holder Javier Sotomayor.
The training camps called “Basketball Without Borders” have already been carried out in some ten countries in Latin America and have traveled the world, said Garcia.
Several US sports institutions have shown interest in Cuba since the Obama and Castro administrations announced the resumption of diplomatic relations last December.
The New York Cosmos soccer club plans to play a friendly match against a Cuban team on June 2 on the island.