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Cosmic Diplomacy: Pele leads his Cosmos into Cuba

Hours before game time, FIFA’s President Sepp Blatter resigned.

Cuba's soccer player Yenier Marquez (L), former Brazilian soccer star Pele (C) and New York Cosmos player Raul Gonzalez (R) shake hands after a news conference in Havana June 1, 2015. (REUTERS/ENRIQUE DE LA OSA)

Cuba’s soccer player Yenier Marquez (L), former Brazilian soccer star Pele (C) and New York Cosmos player Raul Gonzalez (R) shake hands after a news conference in Havana June 1, 2015.
(REUTERS/ENRIQUE DE LA OSA)

 

Amidst the ongoing corruption of FIFA, there is a good story regarding soccer as a universal language.  The New York Cosmos entered once-enemy territory to display their efforts of détente.  Hours before game time, FIFA’s President Sepp Blatter resigned.  Although some of the attention was taken off of the game, the anticipation remained.

Featured on ESPN2, this game marked the first time that a professional team from the United States entered Cuba for an exhibition since the Baltimore Orioles in 1999.  This friendly also marks the first time that an American soccer club has played in Cuba since 1978 when the Chicago Sting took on the Cuban National Team.

As we all know, a game of soccer will not fully demolish the longstanding problems between these two nations.  Instead, fans of soccer, sports, and international diplomacy will be on the edge of their seat to measure the effect of the friendly between the Cosmos and the Cuban National Team.

As expected, a great sense of media attention surrounded this game, as well as the attention of New York Knicks star, Carmelo Anthony.  Anthony has been at the team hotel with the Cosmos and attended the match at Pedro Marrero Stadium.  Rumors continue to surround Anthony regarding his potential interest in becoming a part owner of an NASL franchise.   There is no doubt that Anthony would relish the opportunity to team up with Pele and the Cosmos.

The Cosmos did not seem to experience the effect of their nerves.  In the 9th minute, the Cosmos forced a turnover from the Cuban defense and Lucky Mkosana put the Cosmos on the board.  The Cosmos did not stop there.  Before halftime, Sebastian  Guenzatti, Hagop Chirishian, and Lucky Mkosana (again) found the back of the net to put the Cosmos ahead, 4-0.

Andy Vaquero gave the passionate Cuban fans something to cheer for when he put one past Jimmy Maurer in the 51st minute and the score held until the final whistle at 4-1.

The impact of this game stretches way beyond the trivial score line.  Pele and his efforts of détente are a step in the right direction.

“It makes me happy that once again football is helping with peace, between United States and Cuba,” Pele said at a press conference on Monday to promote the match at Havana’s 28,000-seat Pedro Marrero Stadium.

Pele continued, “We see unhappily that there are a lot of political problems everywhere. But football brings people together. For me it’s a big responsibility.”

Soccer is a universal language and that is a fact.  It is also a fact that universal languages can be used to tear down barriers between two sides.  Regardless of the score, the real story surrounds the diplomatic actions between the Cosmos and the Cuban National Team.  As a sports fan, do not expect to go another 16 years without seeing an American side enter Cuba for a match.  The Cosmos look to put a pause on their roles as diplomats, for now.  As for their roles as soccer players, they must prepare for the continuation of their NASL Spring Season and their upcoming US Open Cup match with New York City FC on June 17.

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