WBC 2023: Cuba Shined Despite the Hatred

By Alejandra Garcia on March 23, 2023 from Havana

The Cuban people welcome Team Asere home. Photo: Ismael Francisco

The World Baseball Classic (WBC) between Cuba and the United States was hard to watch. We knew it would be a tough game to win, but for the first time in 17 years, the island was back in the semifinals, among the top four national teams in the world.

The whole island was expectant. Hundreds of Havana residents moved to various points of the city, despite the heavy rain, to watch the game on screens set up for that purpose. Seeing them take the field at LoanDepot Park, in Miami, United States, brought a lot of pride for everyone, for those who are passionate about the sport and for those who aren’t. But the joy was soon tarnished by an orchestrated charade of hate.

The action that was shown by some Cubans who went to the stadium only to humiliate and taunt their team; the team representing their homeland, caused more pain and anger than seeing the opposing team score run after run, inning after inning. There were not only offensive banners that were allowed behind home plate for all the world to see but also threw insults at the Cuban players in the dugout but also those in the outfield bullpen who were preparing to enter the game  and provocative people and all of it was allowed by the security of the stadium.

photo: Ismael Francisco

There were assaults on ballplayers and family members who were watching the game, including women and children. There were also verbal offenses, threats, and other incidents meant to undermine the morale of the Cuban team and damage the image of the achievement of making it to one of the top 4 teams out of 16 who were in the WBC tournament.

We know that the players were subjected to extra pressure that had to have distracted the team from showing its full potential. Words are not enough to describe the sadness we felt as an entire country, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) summed up the feeling in a note released on Wednesday.

“We denounce that the Code of Conduct for Guests established for the stadium was repeatedly violated. The Cuban government alerted the U.S. authorities early on, through diplomatic channels, about the various public and open threats against the Cuba team’s game in Miami,” the report explained.

Cuba does not renounce the right to compete on equal terms in U.S. territory. “And we will continue to fulfill our commitments as host country of all international competitions held on the island, where respect for the participants, including the U.S. team, has always prevailed,” the Ministry added.

One consolation remains. Team Asere, the name given by the people, shined brightly despite the hatred. For days, here there was no other topic among Cubans than the pride we felt for them. “You made this country happy,” President Miguel Díaz-Canel said as he welcomed the team at José Martí International Airport, where there were tears and emotion.

“You faced a powerful opponent with dignity, and amid a tremendous hostility promoted by haters who wanted to overshadow the sporting spectacle grotesquely and indecently,” the president continued.

Team Asere made history, but the dream of being world number one is not over. “The dream started now, and you made it come true with this first step of having placed us among the final four,” Díaz-Canel concluded.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – US