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  Street Sports

 

The Cuban is joyful by nature and enjoys meeting new people and making new friends. Thus, there is nothing better than sport or recreational activities as an ideal pretext to meeting people and befriending them forever if possible. Any place in the country is good to establish a gigantic or little baseball field. It may be a corner of the city or an open land in the more 110 000 square km of the long and green island. It is fairly said that baseball is the Cuban national sport. The best example of that is the fact that even streets intersections with little traffic are used to play baseball. The teams are improvised and probably without gloves or bats everyone enjoys a delicious match that can last all afternoon. This kind of "street baseball", having rules known and respected by everyone, is called "cuatro esquinas" (four corners) and is one of the preferred hobbies to play in the block. Another extended pastime that is known everywhere in the world and highly popular in Cuba is domino. Such is the popularity of this sport that in the first months of 2003, the First Domino World Championship took place in Havana, organized by the international federation of that sport with headquarters in Spain. There are different ways to play domino. Cubans regularly play by couples, with ten tokens for each of the four players in the western region and six in the eastern region. The championship was played this way and the winners were precisely a couple from the Guantanamo province, in Cuba's far eastern end. Domino is one of the favorite games of elder people, although most of the times you can find young people and even women who are really good, and quite unpredictable. To play this game, a bottle of rum is a must for many people. The streets and open spaces are also places of entertainment where children have fun after their responsibilities at school. Raising kites high in the air can be a choice in windy days. Thus the sky of urban and rural areas is filled with the imaginative colors and shapes of this paper birds. Since 1965, there is a special initiative called "Plan de la calle" (street project), which consists of integrative recreational activities aimed at children and teenagers and directed by the sports commissions in each of the 169 municipalities in the 14 provinces. However, that is not enough. The children seek for the most diverse formulas to employ their free time. The games are numberless, but they include hide and seek, spinning toys, run and catch, and many others. Cuban children are pretty ingenious regarding street games. The teenagers and young adults many times improvise a basket in a street lamp or a wall to play basketball in several modalities adapted to the conditions, such as the so-called "guerrilla" played by teams of three, two or even one player each. Sport, no matter the options is an excellent pretext to sweat and gain health under the radiant sun. It is worth-mentioning that many of the athletes who are champions today or at least are part of any of the national teams representing Cuba abroad, were discovered precisely while they played in the streets of any province by any of the more than 35 000 sport trainers formed in Cuban sport institutes or by any of the 58 000 sport activists who work along the island. Soccer is highly popular too and it is among the most played street games. The goals are marked with chalk, stones or using the metal skeleton of some old table covered with a net, which gives the illusion of being keeping an authentic Olympic goal. The ingenious that has always characterized the Cuban people comes to life in these games where they dream of medals or they imagine being famous players like Ronaldo or Zidane, Michael Jordan or Ruperto Herrera, living legends that are already part of the history of world sport. These streets games, apparently not leading anywhere, are the extension of a serious program including sport and physical education that is being taken to effect in the whole educational system and which most evident and complete expression are the National School Games, having become the most important national competition at this level. Every summer since 1963, the school games take place with an annual average participation of 8 000 athletes in 29 sports. Ninety percent of the Olympic or world champions formed in Cuba come precisely from the National School Games, the main source of most of the results in the athletic world that make us fell proud.


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