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New York Cosmos defeat Cuba in diplomatic soccer friendly

Updated: 2015-06-03 11:04

New York Cosmos defeat Cuba in diplomatic soccer friendly

Brazilian football great Pele waves before a soccer game between Cuba's national team and New York Cosmos team in Havana June 2, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

Those who showed were in a festive mood, starting with chants for Brazilian football great Pele when he appeared from a balcony before the match. Pele, 74, a star from the Cosmos teams of the 1970s, was on his first visit to Cuba.

Fans even cheered the prematch warm-ups, blowing horns and waving flags while cramped under a leaky corrugated metal roof on one side of stadium.

Baseball remains Cuba's national sport but soccer has gained in popularity, as evidenced by multiplying contests on dusty pitches and a proliferation of Real Madrid and Barcelona jerseys.

"I want Cuba to win but I came to follow Raul, the mythical No. 7 from Madrid," said Raydel Aguirre, a 23-year-old graphic designer who paid one peso ($0.05) for his ticket and was wearing the jersey of Real Madrid's current No. 7, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Seated at midfield, Lionel Hernandez, 47, waved both Cuban and U.S. flags from the same staff. He considered the match, and the new U.S.-Cuban relations, to be momentous.

"Everything is advancing and this is part of it," Hernandez said. "I'm not referring to the people because there were never any differences between us, but politically, yes, this is progress."

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