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Yenisel Rodriguez Perez: I lived in Cuba my entire life until March 30, 2013. I am currently a resident in the city of Miami along with my father. Despite the 90 miles that separate Havana and Miami, I find profound reasons in both for political and community activism. My encounter with socio-cultural anthropology eight years ago prepared me for a commitment of love for cultural diversity.

The Crisis of Amateur Sports in Cuba

October 5, 2012 | Print Print |

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez

Idalis Ortiz won a gold medal in London in judo (78 kg). Photo: ecured.cu

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban amateur sports is no longer among the world’s elite. The growing interest that the emerging powers have shown in amateur sports, in addition to professional athletes competing in major amateur competitions, have elevated the quality of these events as never before.

All of this is occurring at a time when the Cuban government has made deep cuts in social spending, significantly affecting the national amateur sports infrastructure. Consequently, Cuban sports has reduced its chances for earning a spot among the international elite.

The confluence of these circumstances is affecting our status as a “sports power,” which once defined Cuban amateur sports. Actually, for many decades that was used by the government as a sociopolitical measuring stick.

In the background has been the defeat of one sporting ideology by another one. We’re seeing amateur sports of the populist and statist concept declining at the hands of a commercial approach that defines amateur sports as rearguard training for professional competition.

The defeat of populist sports is closely associated with the fall of the socialist camp and the unsustainability of subsidized sports.

In the daily lives of Cuban athletes these realities are significant. The poor attention they receive, the theft of money from international champions and restrictions on signing contracts into professional sports have generated a climate of opinion unfavorable to amateur sports.

To continue ignoring the hegemony of professional sports will bring more problems than solutions to Cuban sports.

The battle against the “commercialization of sports” (another of the exceedingly demagogic lines of the Cuban government) has to be won by carrying out a complete revolution from below.

Cuban fans shouldn’t be sacrificed, they are the ones who suffer every day as national amateur sports crumbles as a result of the sociopolitical and economic ostracism of the Cuban state.

They are being deprived of that other imagery that reaffirms nationalism through sports with the incorporation of professional athletes on the national teams of their countries of origin.

How long will we have to resign ourselves to watching young talents who don’t leave the country waste their abilities in poor-quality domestic leagues while dozens of Cuban coaches work with professional teams all over the world.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses

    Sports and politics should never have been tied together in the first place. Revolutionary baseball as Fidel liked to call Cuban baseball was nothing more than government subsidized baseball and a useful propoganda tool. While US Olympians worked part-time jobs to pay rent while trying to maintain their training regimen, the Santorenas and Stevensons in Cuba lived in their free government homes, ate subsidized government food, travelled in free cars and still called themselves ämateurs¨. The truth is the rest of us got wise to East Germans/Cuban/Soviets and play the game as well if not better today. (OK, maybe the government food part was not so good)