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The 2014 World Cup: As seen from Cuba

The 2014 World Cup: As seen from Cuba

At this year’s World Cup in Brazil progressed we’ve become immersed in every play and gesture of the coaches, we dissect analyses of the tactical possibilities, we see faces filled with dejection or joy, the contagious euphoria or bitter tears of players, coaches and fans. There have been some unforgettable games, spectacular kicks, moments of tension and scenarios that will end up as statistics. I have put my personal life and work duties on hold for a month. I’ve been indifferent event to the News.

Football is passion and nerve, enthusiasm and vigor but it is also meditation and tactical planning in order to get into the area and score that wished-for goal, to cause the opponent to commit fouls, to avoid fouls with intelligence and create dangerous situations using artfully managed passes or by driving the ball into potentially productive zones. The effectiveness of what has been established as game strategy starts with a rigorous study of the adversary and the selection of players to open the action and to continue with it on the field, making changes for the sake of offensive or defensive balance as the circumstances require and concluding with knowing about the possibilities and strengths, limitations and merits of every man. Everything contributes to the final victory in a combination of personal and group skills. But that is not enough: on the pitch moments, and opportunities present themselves as do the counterattacks. Players have to be aware at all times of where both their team mates and their adversaries are, and be ready to improvise.

Referee intervention regulates sudden emotions that lead to excesses. Their quota of subjectivity reveals unfortunate prejudices and gives rise to some doubts about the impartiality of these men who are charged with delivering justice, when punishments can be overly excessive and when sometimes the refs turn a blind eye to evident fouls or they exaggerate something that is considered to be merely part of the game. For that reason, football functions much as life does—aggressive actions occur naturally, justice errs and at times one suspects that everything becomes subtly confusing. There are clear and murky arrangements among the players, disagreements and encounters with the opposing team, a settling of scores under a myriad of disguises and trickery, with performances worthy of the Actors’ Studio enacting falls and pains in order to affect the outcome.

My neighborhood these days has been remarkably silent, something that is achieved only while the soap opera is being broadcast. The body language is always the same for both men and women: hands grabbing the head when there is a failed attempt by the favorite team or arms extended with clenched fists as the goal is scored…

The World Cup also brings wearing the colors and attributes symbolizing the cultures of the countries one is cheering for. For the first time ever, my block had fluttering German flags challenging the colors of Brazil. The quiet is interrupted only by the goals scored by any Latin American country and ends only when they have qualified. When the festivities begin, I wonder if I am really in Havana or in Bahia or Cartagena de Indias or in Veracruz. Unexpectedly, the Costa Rican team made it into the semi-finals and some of the favorites left the event far too early—Spain bidding adios, England saying good-bye and the Italians, ciao, ciao bambini. All of this accompanied by the shouting of my neighbors who were just as passionately green-and-yellow Brazilians as they are blue Industriales. Cuba joins the party in the midst of high summer temperatures, celebrating every moment of the World Cup with cold beer.

August 2014 This article formed part of the August 2014 issue of What’s On Havana The definitive monthly travel & culture guide to Havana Download our current issue of What’s On Havana, your definitive travel, culture and entertainment guide for all things happening in Havana, Cuba’s bustling and enigmatic capital city. We include features from around Cuba written by the best international travel writers covering Cuba. Our monthly online digital magazine is also available in Spanish and French.

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