It took the President of the International Football Association Board (FIFA), Gianni Infantino from Switzerland, only a few hours to gain a good impression of Cuba, traveling to the island for the first time on Saturday, April 29, as part of a working visit to several Caribbean nations.
On arrival to Havana’s José Martí International Airport, Infantino was received by José Ramón Fernández, head of the Cuban Olympic Committee, with whom he discussed national and international sports. Later, the FIFA President presented Fernández with a soccer jersey from the organization, meant for Army General Raúl Castro Ruz.
“This jersey is for President Raúl Castro, with the number nine of the back, because we want, at least 51% of his heart to be dedicated to football, and the rest to other sports. We chose this jersey because it embodies great strikers and the Cuban President has scored many goals in his lifetime,” stated Infantino.
From the airport the distinguished visitor made his way to La Polar stadium, located in the Havana neighborhood of Puentes Grandes, where he inaugurated a new synthetic pitch, which will now be used by various Cuban men’s and women’s teams to train.
Speaking to national and international press gathered at the stadium, Infantino noted that Cuba has two great advantages: passion for sports in general, and in particular soccer; as well as natural sporting talents across different disciplines.
“In order to develop its soccer, Cuba needs to channel and structure the passion and talent of its people by supporting soccer projects, such as the Forward initiative,” stated the FIFA President.
In the same way, Infantino urged Cuban soccer players to continue working with passion and commitment, as great results come from hard work and organization.
“FIFA is looking to invest and take soccer back it to its essence and Cuba needs to be one of these most important examples. We will continue working in a serious, professional, transparent manner to develop this sport,” stated Infantino
During his visit to the La Polar facility, Cuba’s national women’s team presented Infantino with a pennant from the island’s female Soccer Federation. The FIFA President then spoke with players, urging them to enjoy every game, and always play with a smile.
Infantino was accompanied on his short tour by officials from the Cuban Olympic Committee, the Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER) and Cuban Soccer Federation; meanwhile the FIFA President’s delegation also included the President of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf), Canada’s Víctor Montagliani.