Baquero is the only Cuban soccer player to have competed in two Futsal World Cups, after participating in the Under-20 tournament in Turkey 2013. Photo: Courtesy of Wilfredo Carbó

A few weeks ago we discovered soccer player Andy Baquero Ruiz, in an environment completely different to that in which we have seen him, in recent years. We found the Havana player at the Cerro Pelado High Performance Training Center, preparing at that time with the national pre-selection squad set to compete in the Colombia 2016 Eighth International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) Futsal (indoor soccer) World Cup, taking place September 10-Ocotber 1.

Baquero is known as a regular member of the country’s most recent national soccer teams, as both right-back and a midfielder.

Three months ago, however, he swapped the outdoor grass pitch for the indoor version. The talented soccer player spoke to Granma international about his move:

How did you become a member of the national Futsal team?

About three months ago, Futsal directors and coaches told me about the possibility of making the national pre-selection team, given that I have been playing the sport for years in provincial tournaments in Havana.

What is more, there were no other soccer activities after the national championship ended, so I decided to start practicing with the Futsal squad.

What Futsal position do you play?

I play as wing or wing-striker, I switch between the two positions. I feel very comfortable playing both, partly because the other members of the team have received me well. Several of them are from Havana and we have been on teams in the capital, this helps you build greater rapport during the game.

How was the transition from a grass to an indoor pitch?

Quite good I think. It’s not something difficult for me because I’ve played both types. The only difference was the greater training demands looking toward the World Cup, where you face the best teams on the planet.

The majority of players who currently play indoor soccer began their professional careers on grass pitches and later, for different reasons, make the change to this sport, which only has five players. Today, it’s very common to move from one discipline to the other.

How would you rate Cuba’s performance in the World Cup?

We didn’t reach our goal of making it to the last 16. We lost all three matches. Regardless of the errors we made we must highlight the quality of our three opponents – Thailand, Egypt and Russia.

On a personal note, I feel very pleased to have scored one of our team’s seven goals against Thailand.

How would you rate Cuba’s competition group?

It wasn’t an easy group, everyone arrives here well prepared. Look, our three opponents then went on to qualify for the following round, this demonstrates the quality of the teams we’re up against.

Egypt is the squad with the most consistent results on the African continent in the last 20 years. They beat us in our World Cup debut 7-1. They played better together as a team, were more effective on the attack; we were never able to find our flow on the pitch and keep up the pressure; we also failed in our defense.
Meanwhile, Thailand has improved a lot in Futsal over recent years. They hosted the previous edition of the World Cup and made it to the final 16. They have a generation of excellent players able to compete for four more years. In regards to Russia, the only thing I can say is that they’re at a level which we currently aren’t, they’re competing for medals.

Will you stick with Futsal?

No, not at all, I want to keep participating in the two. I like to play both. For now I think I’ll be switching between the two types. I’m all about playing soccer in any way.

After competing in Colombia I hope to be called up for Cuba’s eleven-a-side team, set to play a friendly against the U.S. on October 7, in Havana’s Pedro Marrero Stadium.