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Cuba defections continue during World Cup soccer qualifying in Canada

Cuba plays Canada in World Cup soccer qualifying with just 11 men; coach admits players left team.
Cuba soccer team defect Toronto garces gonzalezEnlarge
Cuban coach Garces Gonzalez shouts instructions to his team during their 3-0 World Cup qualifier loss to Canada in Toronto on October 12, 2012. (GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

FIFA confirmed today what seemed obvious from the beginning; three Cubans defected before their World Cup qualifying match against Canada in Toronto on Friday.

Cuba had just 11 players available for the game despite arriving in Toronto with 15.

Soccer’s governing body confirmed the players defected today, but didn’t offer any further details, The Associated Press reported.

There are reports the men attempted to flee into the United States, but US officials wouldn’t confirm or deny that.

Canada beat Cuba 3-0 in the group stages of qualifying for Brazil 2014.

The referee ejected one player for a vicious tackle, leaving the Cubans further shorthanded.

A Canadian player, however, was also later ejected during a minor scuffle.

Coach Garces Gonzalez, at first, tried to deflect or explain away the missing players.

According to the Toronto Sun, Gonzalez said one player was sick and that he didn’t want to talk about who wasn’t there.

He eventually relented, then blamed FIFA’s sanctions against Cuban athletes.

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“As with any Cuban sport team that travels, they are all chasing the American dream,” Gonzalez said, the Sun reported.

“For the team to try and keep the team together it’s difficult. If FIFA would allow these players to play in other league perhaps this wouldn’t happen in the future.”

Last year, two Cuban women left their team during a match in Vancouver.

Canada’s former ambassador to Cuba said the Canadian government wouldn’t deport the Cubans if they tried to remain in the country.

However, he said it’s likely the men are trying to reach Florida’s large Cuban population.

“My guess would be that some of the men would have family or networks in the United States; that’s where most of the Cuban diaspora is. So it’s possible that after some discussion these guys will head south,” Michael Kergin told CTV News.

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