MLS' Cubans react to Ozzie Guillen comments and apology

Yordany Alvarez - October 22, 2011

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The controversy surrounding Ozzie Guillen's recent comments supporting Cuban leader Fidel Castro has caused a stir among at least one Cuban player in Major League Soccer.

Real Salt Lake midfielder Yordany Álvarez, who defected while with the Cuban Olympic team in Tampa, Fla., in March 2008, counts himself among those offended by the words of the Miami Marlins manager, who stated in an interview with Time magazine that "I love Fidel Castro. I respect Fidel Castro." Guillen, who was suspended by the Marlins for five games, apologized for his comments earlier this week.

"I am one of those Cubans [offended by Guillén], of course I am," the 26-year-old Álvarez told FutbolMLS.com. "I think that [Guillén] made a mistake. Afterward, he apologized to all Latin Americans and of course to the Cubans. But it's too late. He never should have said that … He offended all Cubans that are suffering for our families."

The RSL holding midfielder believes that Guillén's comments show that he did not have a good enough grasp of the issues surrounding Cuba and Castro.

"I understood that he admired Fidel Castro for the 50 years that he's been in power in Cuba," Álvarez said of his interpretation of Guillen's comments. "He did not take into consideration that they were 50 years of misery and dictatorship, without liberties and with a great deal of suffering for families. And now Hugo Chavez is doing the same in Venezuela [Guillen's native country].

"He never should have said this. There are many Cuban families in Miami suffering under this regime for more than 50 years. It's normal that there are a lot of Cubans who don't want him as the manager [of the Miami Marlins]."

While Álvarez was outspoken, the most high-profile Cuban player in MLS offered a more measured take on the controversy. Seattle Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who defected in June 2007 during the CONCACAF Gold Cup, wants everyone to draw their own conclusions.

"I've heard about this but every person has their opinion," the 26-year-old Alonso told FutbolMLS.com "Everyone knows how it is in Cuba. Every one has their opinion and you have to respect it. I have nothing to say. I'm not involved in politics. I'm focused on soccer."

Álvarez admitted that his reaction was impacted by the fact that he still has family members in Cuba who he has not seen in a long time.

"To reach my dreams and make them a reality, I took a chance and I had to leave my family there," he said. "That's why I felt offended, because my family is divided and I suffer with this."

Despite the pain, however, Álvarez feels Guillen should be allowed to get on with his managerial job.

"The five-game suspension seemed sufficient to me," Álvarez said. "I think he needs to continue in the sport, but he shouldn't talk about politics any more. Or about anything he doesn't know. He apologized. Ok, I accept his apology and it's done.

"But Guillen, please, don't speak about politics, especially if you're not Cuban."