WASHINGTON Oct 11 Two Cuban soccer players
have defected from their national team before the World Cup
qualifying game on Saturday night against the United States,
Cuban and U.S. media reported.
Cuba's state television, blaming its "imperial" foe, the
United States, said midfielder Pedro Faife, 24, and forward
Reynier Alcantara, 26, had "betrayed the unity of their team
and given in to the temptation of the empire's money.
The two players disappeared from their hotel outside
Washington before a practice on Friday, the Cuban team's coach,
Reinhold Fanz, told The Washington Post.
"It is always a problem for the Cuba team," Fanz told the
newspaper. "We have security, but you can't handcuff them to
Defections have plagued Cuban sports, which have lost
dozens of top baseball players, boxers and other athletes in
recent years, many seeking lucrative careers in the United
States, much to the annoyance of Cuba's communist authorities.
Six members of Cuba's under-23 soccer team defected during
an Olympic qualifying tournament in Tampa, Florida, in March.
Only one Cuban soccer defector has made a mark in the
United States, Maykel Galindo, playing for Major League Soccer
team Chivas USA.
The depleted Cuban team faces the United States at
Washington's RFK Stadium.
The U.S. team won the first World Cup qualifier against
Cuba 1-0 last month in Havana. It was the first time in 61
years a U.S. soccer team had played in Cuba.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Peter Cooney)