Cuba approves exhibition soccer match with New York Cosmos
By Nelson Acosta
HAVANA (Reuters) - The New York Cosmos have won approval to play the Cuban national soccer team in what would be the first professional sports team visit to the Caribbean island nation since December's rapprochement between Cuba and the United States.
The match in Havana on June 2 would be among the most important appearances by a U.S. team since Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles played an exhibition in Havana in 1999.
"The authorities have approved the game to be played. It's almost certain to happen," an official with the Football Association of Cuba told Reuters on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity due to association policy.
The Cosmos, of the second-tier North American Soccer League, declined to confirm the match, saying only in a statement that "we have had meaningful dialogue with the Cuban Federation, and will provide further information in due course."
Among the details to be worked out is improving field conditions at Havana's 28,000-seat Pedro Marrero Stadium, Cuba's main soccer venue, the Cuban official said.
The Cosmos reached out to Cuba even before the joint U.S.-Cuban announcement on Dec. 17 that the longtime adversaries would restore diplomatic relations, the Cuban official said.
The Cosmos of today are a revival of the team from the 1970s and '80s that invigorated U.S. soccer by signing international stars such as Pele and Franz Beckenbauer at the end of their careers.
Today the face of the franchise is former Real Madrid and Spain captain Raul Gonzalez, 37. Continued...