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Soccer player defects from Cuba, requests asylum in US

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Harrison McClary/REUTERS

(Read caption) Andres Flores (R) of El Salvador fights for the ball with Yosmel De Armas of Cuba during their CONCACAF Olympic qualifying soccer match in Nashville, Tennessee March 24.

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Yosmel De Armas is a Cuban soccer player who has defected in order to seek asylum in the United States. While in Nashville, Tennessee last month for an Olympic qualifying soccer tournament, the Cuban midfielder was absent from his national team's final game against Canada, although he played on Saturday’s 4-0 loss to El Salvador

When asked why the player skipped the game, the Cuban national coach said De Armas was sick and remained at the team's hotel. However, when the team left Nashville, the promising soccer player did not accompany his teammates on their return trip to the island nation.

Although US officials refused to comment about the player’s whereabouts, it was reported that De Armas was last seen in Miami

"We're preparing an asylum application to file with the Department of Homeland Security," attorney Alex Solomiany said, according to Reuters

The Miami-based lawyer, who described his client as "nervous," said De Armas is "alone here" and that he was on his way to Miami at the time of the game, contrary to the coach's allegations.

A rising number of Cuban athlete defections are explained by several factors: the continuous financial hardship the populace faces in Cuba, the plethora of defection precedents that make the process look easy, and the luring prospects of a better life, all coalesce to urge young athletes to follow this path. 

"This is another case of a Cuban sportsman trying to get a decent life, to try to take control of his own career," Omar Lopez told Reuters.  Lopez is general director of the Cuban American National Foundation, a Miami-based organization of Cuban exiles who seek political change on the island.

Four years ago, seven members of the Cuban under-23 national soccer team also sought political asylum after competing against its US counterpart in Tampa, Florida. 

"Of course, my heart will be in Cuba with my family, but I want to have the freedom to better my life, to play professional soccer, to be the best I can be, and for that we had to make this sacrifice," Yenier Bermudez told the Miami Herald, according to ESPN.

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Since the 2002 CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football) tournament in Los Angeles, a total of 15 Cuban soccer players abandoned their teams and requested political asylum in the United States.


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