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September 27, 2013 at 7:36 PM

Osvaldo Alonso ‘very happy’ Cuba is allowing athletes to leave for other leagues

Photo credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

Photo credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

There was a pretty big sports story that came across the newswire Friday morning.

Cuba announced it will soon allow athletes in all sports to sign and play in foreign leagues. This obviously hadn’t been the practice in the small island country, though the new policy isn’t expected to include the United States, as you might expect and can read more about here.

The AP report has some good detail on why it’s such a big opportunity for Cuban athletes:

Athletes’ wages are not made public in Cuba but are believed to be somewhere around the $20 a month that most other state employees earn — a tiny fraction of the millions many U.S. big leaguers make.

That should explain why so many elite Cuban athletes have defected to this country.

Much of the attention following this story has centered on baseball, but Seattle has its own star from Cuba, just in a different sport. Reporters spoke with Sounders FC’s Osvaldo Alonso for his thoughts on the news, something he hadn’t heard as he stepped off the practice field Friday.

“If that happened, it’s good for the people of Cuba,” said Alonso, who defected in 2007. “They can play anywhere and show they have good (athletes). It’s good for them, but I’m here. If I waited six years… I don’t know. I’m very happy for them that they’re giving them opportunities to play in other countries and to be professionals in other leagues.”

The Cuban athletes would still be expected to fulfill some responsibilities back home, according to the report.

Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid was asked if Cuban players getting more opportunities around the region could have any effect on soccer in the region or MLS.

“Not if they can’t sign in America; it’s not going to help us any,” Schmid said. “Obviously there are good athletes that have come out of Cuba, and Ozzie is obviously a shining example of that in our sport, so I think the ability for … the athletes of Cuba to be able to get out there and seek opportunities in other countries I think is great for them.”

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