Baseball is back on the Olympic schedule for the first time since 2008, but the typical Cuban player will not attend. The road to Tokyo is tough in baseball: only 6 countries are allowed to participate and in the North and South American qualifiers only the winner can go to the Olympics.
Cuba lost to Venezuela and Canada in the group stage, and the win went to Colombia. For example, Cuba was eliminated from the qualifiers in the United States and Cuba would lose for the first time in the Olympic baseball tournament.
“It hurts,” said coach Armando Ferrer. “We all know what this sport means to our people. Baseball runs in our veins and we deeply regret that we did not qualify.”
“Every time baseball has been in the Olympics, Cuba has taken a medal and been three times out of five gold medals,” says Floris Geerts.
Almost everyone in Cuba is crazy about baseball.
Floris Geertz explains that disqualification is a tragedy. “Baseball is more than sacred in Cuba, almost everyone is crazy about this sport. It all has to do with the struggle for independence against Spain. Baseball was American, and therefore anti-Spanish.”
“For example, baseball became popular in Cuba, although later history has admitted itself. It is strange now that Cuba is completely crazy about this American sport. But Fidel Castro was also a huge fan, even having a team with his leading team. The myth that he once lived with the New York Yankees is not true.
“Baseball is very big in Cuba, it is a national sport. They are usually very good too. But the national team was damaged because many Cubans left the country to play elsewhere.”
For example, there is the story of Cesar Prieto, one of the protagonists of the novel. “If we are to believe the Cubans, he got into a car and drove off with slick tires when they landed in the States.”
Prieto has not been tracked since and is not the first. “For a profitable contract, say, 100 million dollars for 4 years, you can already leave the national team behind. But if 300 of your best players leave Cuba, the level of your national team will drop dramatically. “
Four countries are already certain to participate in Tokyo: Japan, Mexico, Israel and South Korea, and one ticket to victory in the US and the Netherlands is still being discussed.
In the last Olympic qualifiers, the Netherlands will compete against Australia and the second and third matches of the US qualifiers. China and Taiwan fail. The winner must go to the Olympics.
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