The Harassed Team

By Fidel Castro Ruz

The Olympics will very soon begin in China. Some days ago I wrote about our baseball team. I said that our athletes were put through a very hard test and that if something went wrong they were not the ones who deserved the harshest criticisms. I recognized their quality and patriotism. They felt depressed after the criticisms that came from Cuba.

Afterwards I learned that they were all in good spirits. They had learned how to eat the spicy Korean food with chopsticks, the way it is done in eastern Asia. On July 26 they sent a vibrant patriotic message. They will no doubt face with honor that difficult test.

But, will they be on an equal footing with regards to the teams of other rich powers, such as the United States and Japan, which will be competing against Cuba?

The first has almost thirty times as much inhabitants as Cuba; the second, at least eleven times as much. Neither of them is under any economic blockade and both are extremely wealthy. No one is robbing or plundering them of their athletes.

Japan has ordered its professional athletes to join the Olympic team, and they will have to; so has been the will of their masters. That has nothing to do with the athletes that have been turned into merchandise.

On the eve of the Olympics, the United States, with its mercenary money, bought Alexei Ramírez, who had been the leading home runner of the National Baseball series in our country in 2007. The coach of the team that bought him has boasted that he does not know in what base he should place Ramírez, because he had been well trained in all of them. It is disgusting to read about the details of the commercial arrangements surrounding the case, which have been disseminated by the cables, regarding the distribution of the money. Formerly, they had bought the most promising pitcher from the province of Pinar del Rio, José Ariel Contreras, thus creating uncertainty and mistrust.

In Edmonton, Canada, just before the beginning of a match with the team of the host country at the 23rd World Youth Baseball Championship, we learned that the southpaw Noel Argüelles, who would for sure be the starting pitcher of the game, and the shortstop José Antonio Iglesias, with a batting average above 500, were missing.

The courageous youth league pitcher from Pinar del Río, Julio Alfredo Martínez Wong, climbed the mound. He had already pitched for eight innings in a row and had one more out to make; there were men on the bases and he looked exhausted. In the bullpen, Joan Socarrás Maya was warming up hard; he was instructed to be ready to take action. Esteban Lombillo, the energetic and able coach of Cuba’s youth team had already been to the box. Julio Alfredo, exploding with dignity, demanded that he be allowed to continue pitching: “I will finish this game!” he exclaimed. Lombillo, who was also upset about the despicable betrayal, knew what he meant and trusted him. Julio Alfredo put his heart and soul into the game. He pitched for the last out of the eighth inning. In the ninth he retired the batters by three consecutive strikeouts and beat the Canadian team by one run.

The substitute shortstop, Yandy Díaz, played wonderfully and connected for a double that was decisive for Cuba’s victory.

Edmonton has become a dumping ground. The Cuban athletes were badly taken care of. That city has the privilege of hosting that championship every year. We should analyze whether it is worth attending that tournament. Not even a single representative of the Cuban press had been sent to cover the event. All we know we have learned unofficially.

The proud Cuban athletes of the Olympic baseball team, who have been wonderfully taken care of by their Korean hosts and will be even better taken-care of in China, will have to compete under the unfavorable circumstances that I explained before. Whatever the results, they know that what really matters for us are the honor and the courage with which they struggle.

But the imperialist aggression is not only seen in baseball. Some months ago, part of our male soccer team let itself be drawn into an act of betrayal inside the United States, which limited Cuba’s prospects in that sport in the international arena. A female Olympic judo athlete, almost a sure gold medalist, was bribed. Buying our athletes they deprived us from five sure gold medals in Olympic boxing. It is like a call to slaughter against Cuba to steal brains, muscles and bones.

Why are the rich and powerful afraid of our small and blockaded island?

Leinier Domínguez struggles in Switzerland at one of the most important international chess tournaments.

At the Olympics, due to begin on August 8, our athletes in different sports will struggle to win the gold with more dignity than ever, and our people will enjoy their gold medals, as they never have. Then the fanatics will remember the traitors.

—Granma, July 31, 2008