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Football in Cuba is run by the Asociación de Fútbol de Cuba. The association manages the national football team as well as the Campeonato Nacional. Football is the second most popular sport in Cuba after baseball. It was very popular with young people and new generations in Cuba. Most Cubans support either Barcelona or Real Madrid from La Liga.
Since 1961 professional sport has been banned by the Cuban government. In 2016 Maikel Reyes was the first Cuban to sign a professional contract with a foreign team when he joined Mexican third division side Cruz Azul Premier. Until then, Cuban footballers who played professionally had done so without permission from the country's football association and after their escape.
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The Cuban national football team is controlled by the Asociación de Fútbol de Cuba, the Cuban football association. They are affiliated to the Caribbean Football Union of CONCACAF.
They were the first Caribbean team to reach the World Cup finals in 1938, defeating Romania in a 2-1 replay after having drawn 3: 3. They were then eliminated in the quarterfinals by Sweden, 8-0. Cuba has not returned to the World Cup since then.
Cuba finished second in the Caribbean Cup in 1996, 1999 and 2005 and won the 2012 Caribbean Cup.
Cuba on March 16, 1930 denied its first international football match at this year's Central American and Caribbean Games. They beat Jamaica (then a British colony) 3-1 in Havana. Four days later, they beat Honduras 7-0. Cuba was headed by José Tapia, who held the post until after the 1938 World Cup. Cuba's first World Cup qualifying campaign was in Italy for the 1934 World Cup. All CONCACAF participants were placed in Group 11. The winner of a best-of-three tournament between the two weakest nations, Cuba and Haiti, would produce a winner who would face Mexico in another round of Best of Three in 1930. The winner of this would fight for semi-finalists in the United States in 1930 for a place in the final. All matches between Cuba and Haiti in the first round were held at Parc Leconte in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 28, 1 and 4 January until February 1934. Cuba won the first game 3-1 with Mario Lopez opening a penalty and Hector Socorro scoring the second. The second game was a 1-1 draw with Lopez equalizing in the 85th minute. In the final game, Cuba won 6-0 with two Lopez goals, one from Hector Socorro and one from his brother Francisco. The second round against Mexico consisted of three games at Parque Necaxa in Mexico City. In his first game on March 4, 1934 Mexico prevailed with a hat-trick of Dionisio Mejia 3-0. His goals came in the 12th, 14th and 16th minute. Mario Lopez scored twice for Cuba with one in each half, but Mexico won 3-2. A week later, Mejia scored another hat-trick when Mexico defeated Mexico 5-0, and seven days later Mexico won 4-1 after Lopez opened the gate on 15 minutes. Mexico did not qualify, their 4-2 play-off defeat to the United States was held in Rome during the finals, as the two teams had forgotten to stage it earlier.
In addition to Cuban athletes from other sports, some football players have moved to the United States in recent years. During the 2002 Gold Cup in Los Angeles, two Cuban players, Rey Ángel Martínez and Alberto Delgado, decided to stay in the United States. Striker Maykel Galindo did so during the 2005 Gold Cup. Two others, Osvaldo Alonso and Lester More, did so during the 2007 Gold Cup.
In 2008, defects occurred in two separate tournaments in the US. In March, seven U-23 players, including Yeniel Bermúdez, Yordany Álvarez and Yendry Díaz, were beaten during the 2008 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament while the squad was based in Tampa, FL. In October, two days before the World Cup qualifier against the United States, Reynier Alcántara and Pedro Faife left the team's hotel near Washington, DC. During the CONCACAF Gold Cup 2011, Yosniel Mesa was beaten while the team was in Charlotte, North Carolina. During the Gold Cup 2015 striker Keiler García retired before the team's first game against Mexico in Chicago in the United States.
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