Cuba's Fidel Castro laments death of famed volleyball coach

HAVANA, June 3 (Xinhua) -- Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro Tuesday lamented the recent death of Eugenio George, the volleyball coach and talent scout behind "the best women's teams of the 20th century", Cuba's National Information Agency (AIN) reported on Tuesday.

George passed away Saturday in Havana at the age of 81.

In a brief message published by state daily Granma, the revolutionary leader lauded George's career, which included being named by the International Volleyball Federation as the best trainer of women's volleyball of the 20th century, and being named in 2001 to the Volleyball Hall of Fame.

In his note, addressed to the directors of the National Sports Institute (INDER), Castro explains that he found out about George' s death reading an obituary in Granma, otherwise he would have liked to send a wreath for his funeral Sunday.

"I who always much admired him did not know of his death until several hours later," wrote Castro, 87, who retired from power in 2006 after ruling for 48 years.

George coached the Cuban women's teams that won gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Olympics, as well as at the 1978 and 1994 world championships, and silver at the 1986 world championships.

In addition to those awards, there were others garnered at the Pan-American and Central American games, World Cups and Grands Prix.

He is also credited with helping Cuba's national teams win Olympic gold in 2000 at Sydney and Olympic bronze in 2004 at Athens, even though he was no longer coaching, but serving as an advisor.

According to an interview published in Granma in March, between 1996 and 2000 George received several proposals to coach Japanese clubs and the national teams of the Netherlands and the United States, but he always declined.