To the west of Havana lies the quiet village of Vinales. Tobacco grows well here due to its special micro-climate and all the houses (casa's) are being converted into colourful tourist homestay's.
Walking down the main street I got talking with a local fella Ariel. He told me he was an excellent footballer who had once been on Barcelona's books (Like he'd also been a unicorn and a griffin in previous lives! 😄)
We agreed to meet at the baseball stadium at 5pm for a kick about. When I got there, Ariel had yet to arrive. I walked on to the pitch and called over some local lads busy having a sneaky can or two and sharing a bottle of rum in the stands.
The 5 v 5 that followed was intense, probably due to the ale. This was the first game where I had seen aggression and dangerous slide tackles. Thankfully things didn't spill over too much. Half of the boys played in bare feet but this didn't curb their desire to get stuck in.
Wherever I have been in the world, I've come across players who would stand a chance of making it as a pro if only they could get the opportunity, which all too often they can't. There were 3 such players today.
Philippe was the best player on the park. Brilliantly skilled, fast, direct, super quick feet, low centre of gravity and imaginative. His only fault, as it tends to be with players like him at his age, was that he was a bit greedy.
Marco on my side was a talented composed Alan Hansen like player. At over 6 feet tall his touch was almost faultless, as was his reading of the game.
Manuel at the back for the opposition acted as sweeper and had an excellent range of accurate passing with both feet.
The younger, smaller dudes were tough and didn't give an inch. David in our nets was a beast.
Ariel had arrived by now but after a quick 5 minute burst, he sat out the rest of the game (maybe that's why Barca let him go ? 😄) Nice chap, tall
The game was locked tight at 3-3 after 45 minutes, some players had a breather and were replaced by others who had stopped to watch.
I subbed on and off with a mate I'd met on
my travels, Kamil Stibinski, a Polish chap living in Ireland who had the best Galway accent you'd ever heard ! Very funny man.
Philippe was intense and relentless coming forward and almost Impossible to mark. Unfortunately for him, apart from Manuel, the rest of his side couldn't sustain his appetite for the game. Marco's side ran out 5-3 winners in the end.
Footballs are incredibly hard to come by in Cuba so I gave the match ball to the boys. They offered me rum in return ⚽️❤️👍