Wednesday 02 March 2022, 06:00

FIFA Forward funded facility revolutionising Cuban football

  • Cuba inaugurates new artificial pitch with a win over St. Vincent and the Grenadines in FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers

  • Pitch funded by the FIFA Forward Development Programme and the Government of Santiago de Cuba

  • The total investment for the project was USD $520,482,66

Cuban football had two good reasons to celebrate on Wednesday 16 February 2022. Not only did the national women’s team earn a comprehensive 3-0 win against St Vincent and the Grenadines in their opening match in the qualifiers for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, but they had the pleasure of doing so on a brand new world-class pitch.

Built in the city of Santiago de Cuba in 1991 for that year’s Pan American Games, the Estadio Santiago Maceo has not been an ideal venue for football. Its natural grass pitch struggled with the local climate (regular high temperatures and inclement weather, for example rain, cyclones and hurricanes) and was never in good condition. 

FIFA Forward funded pitch in Cuba during the renovation phase

Thanks to USD $520,482,66 in funding from the FIFA Forward Development Programme, however, a new artificial pitch, along with with equipment, such as goals, flags, benches and an officials' table has enabled Cuban football to make some major positive strides. The pitch will not only be utilized to host international matches in Cuba, but also benefit men, women and grassroots players..

“It took a major investment from FIFA to make it happen,” said Miguel Angel Perez, secretary general of the Cuban Football Association (AFC). “I am delighted to see the girls playing here, after a long layoff because of the pandemic and after all the sacrifices they’ve made while training in a bubble. We’re so pleased they’ve been able to play and get a win too.”

Summing up the impact that the new pitch at the Estadio Santiago Maceo will have, Cuba midfielder Laura Moreno said: “It’s going to help football to grow gradually, at both national and international level. This pitch is the best thing we have and it’s going to allow us to improve our technical skills and give the players all the motivation they need to get out there and give their best.”

AFC President Oliet Rodriguez Mendez echoed those views, celebrating Cuban football’s present, while looking ahead with hope to a future where such investments will be reflected in competitive national teams playing to a higher level. 

“In social and technical terms, this has revolutionised a land that has produced some great players. The installation of this pitch has created even more passion for football in Cuba and in Santiago in particular,” said Rodriguez. “It’s going to encourage children to play more sport in the future and take part in better competitions. In time, this will filter through to the national teams.” 

As if that were not enough, on 20 February, the party continued at the Santiago Maceo Stadium. St. Vincent and the Grenadines took on Haiti in another exciting game, meaning the recently refurbished stadium has already started a new chapter in the history of Cuban football.