New York Cosmos and Pele arrive in Havana

Posted: 01-Jun-15 17:53

Just two days ago, on Sunday night, Pele was setting foot in Cuba for the first time. Accompanied by the New York Cosmos, and by former Real Madrid player, Raul; his arrival into Havana is yet another clear example of a new era dawning in Cuba as it opens up to the world and relations between the U.S. and the Caribbean nation thaw out. Pele follows in the footsteps of other high-profile celebrities visiting the island, like Rihanna (who is still there, filming a video in Havana), Paris Hilton and even France's President, who visited last month. Now, the arrival of Pele and the New York Cosmos marks the first U.S.A. team to play in Cuba in the last 16 years.

New York Cosmos and Pele arrive in Havana

“It’s a big thing for me to be here in Cuba” was one of the first phrases Edson Arantes do Nascimento, a.k.a Pele, uttered upon arrival to Havana’s International Jose Marti Airport.

This happened on the evening of Sunday 31st May, when he descended from a plane in the airport’s Terminal 2, accompanied by the New York Cosmos, the football team Pele now oversees.

Former and legendary Real Madrid player, Raul Gonzalez Blanco (best known as simply “Raul” or “Madrid’s Angel” was also present as part of the New York Cosmos soccer team.

The Spanish player couldn’t hide his emotion at being welcomed by a group of locals with Real Madrid T-Shirts, waving Real Madrid flags and cheering him on with chants of “Hala Madrid” as he exited the airport and made way to the bus that would take him and the rest of the Cosmos players to the Melia Cohiba hotel at the heart of the city.

Speaking of the timing of his arrival into the island, Pele added:

"This is a moment of peace and brotherhood. Once more we’re here with football to bring peace and joy to the people."

Today, this Tuesday evening, the New York Cosmos will play a friendly match against Cuba’s national football team, marking a historic moment in Cuba’s sports worlds as it’s the first time a U.S.A team play in the island in 16 years.

Even though plans for the match were announced earlier this year, the news of Pele and the American team’s arrival in the island, come just days after the U.S. State Department confirmed that it had now removed Cuba from its list of countries that sponsor terrorism - a key step moving forward in the improvement of relations between the two nations.

Ahead of today's game, New York Cosmos' chairman, Seamus O'Brien declared;

"We are extremely privileged and honoured to accept this opportunity,"

"This happened naturally, very quickly. There was instant reciprocity from both sides, wanting to do the game."

Giovanni Savarese, Cosmos' Venezuelan coach insisted that:

"What we want is to show our football and make of our stay here something special, a football festivity to unite the people and to have fun in this visit, with key players like ours, and also to help Cuba's national team prepare for the Golden Cup, which is coming soon."

The match taking place tonight will be broadcast nationwide in Cuba when Cosmos will become the first U.S. football team to play in Cuba since 1978. Back then it was the Chicago Sting who played against the Cuban National Team, making them the first team to visit Cuba since 1959.

And this looks as though it's just the opening of greater things to come, as last week Cuban officals announced that U.S. baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles would return to the island this year after 16 years to play agains't Cuba's national team.


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