The New York Cosmos will become the first professional U.S. soccer team to play in Cuba in 37 years when they face the Cuban national team at Estadio Pedro Marrero in Havana on June 2. The match was confirmed earlier this month by the club and the Cuban Soccer Association vice president Antonio Garces who called the match ‘a great step, very beneficial for our soccer.’
The Chicago Sting of the North American Soccer League was the last U.S. soccer team to play in Cuba visiting the Caribbean island in 1978. But it probably should have been the Cosmos making the trip that year.
Clive Toye was the general manager for the Cosmos from 1971 until 1977. The British American was influential in bring Pele and other top players to the Big Apple and tried to work his magic to arrange a game between the Cosmos and the Cuban national team in his final year with the club. It did not work out.
The following year Toye was named the president of the Chicago Sting and after surprisingly being contacted by the CSA was able to pull together a hastily arranged tour for his new team. The Sting lost the match 2-0 in front of 30,000+ fans. They did better when the Cuban team traveled to the U.S. the next year with a 1-1 draw in front of 4,153 fans at Soldier Field.
“Had it been the Cosmos going there it would have been a huge story,” Toye told the Guardian earlier this year looking back on his work trying to schedule the trip.
The Cosmos are still part of the NASL and are currently on top of the Spring Season table with 14 points from 6 matches. The team will be travelling down during a break in the regular season schedule. The 2015 roster includes former Spanish national team and Real Madrid striker Raul.
“The club has had a history of traveling overseas, breaking down some barriers and opening doors,” said team chairman Seamus O’Brien about the trip.
The Cosmos will reportedly face a full-strength Cuban side. The Lions of the Caribbean are using the match as part of their preparation for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The team plays home matches at Hofstra University in Hempstead and still are the soccer brand most associated with New York and global ambassador of the game. And Toye is overjoyed that the Cosmos will finally make it to Cuba and that the Cosmos continue to carry the torch
“Anything the Cosmos do good to establish the fact that New York is Cosmos country and not Red Bull territory and not bloody New York City or whatever they’re called, is for me, it’s good,” Toye went on to tell the Guardian. “Who cares if the Red Bulls go to Cuba. The Cosmos going there is very good. It’s something that should have been in 1978 and it takes a while, but now they’re there. Anything they can do to get publicity, anything they can do to reclaim the notice of soccer fans in the area, to me is first class.”
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