The Associated Press
The Associated Press
HAVANA – Cuba called the desertion of seven soccer players at the Olympic qualifying tournament in the United States “dishonorable” and a “low blow” on Friday.
The seven players left the team in Tampa, Fla., after their opening match, a 1-1 draw with the United States on Tuesday night.
On Thursday night, the team started with 10 players when one was suspended for a red card in the U.S. match, and lost to Honduras 2-0.
“After their brilliant performance against the United States . . . Cuba’s Under-23 team suffered the desertion of seven members under the protection of the Cuban Adjustment Act,” read a short note in the Communist Party daily Granma.
Entitled “Low Blow for Cuban Soccer,” the article noted that Cuba was left significantly weakened against Honduras.
The Communist Youth Union newspaper Juventud Rebelde, the island’s other national daily, qualified the desertions as “dishonorable.”
While Cuba hasn’t officially identified the players, Jose Manuel Miranda, Erlys Garcia Baro, Yenier Bermudez, Yordany Alvarez and Loanni Prieto missed practice Wednesday and were absent against Honduras. Yendry Diaz and Eder Roldan also missed the game, with Diaz telling ESPN that the two players left the team Wednesday.
Under the Cold War-era Cuban Adjustment Act that provides special protection to immigrants from the communist-run island, the United States instituted a “wet foot, dry foot” policy that lets Cubans who reach American soil remain in the country and apply for U.S. residency after one year.
Soccer fields to be same size
ZURICH, Switzerland – FIFA accepted a proposal to standardize the size of international soccer fields at all new stadiums.
The governing body’s executive committee Friday adopted a new rule from the International Football Association Board to fix the field size at 105 yards by 68 yards.
The rule will not apply to existing stadiums, and it will not affect the international eligibility of Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., where the United States is negotiating to play Argentina in a friendly match on June 8.
Before the 1994 World Cup in the United States, FIFA said the Giants Stadium could accommodate a field of 103 yards by 63 yards.
Also Friday, FIFA restated its opposition to Bolivia playing international games 11,800 feet above sea level in its capital of La Paz.
FIFA health regulations insist players and officials must adjust for at least two weeks before playing at altitudes above 9,840 feet.
Raiders sign Joseph
ALAMEDA, Calif. – The Oakland Raiders signed free-agent defensive tackle William Joseph on Friday, adding a former first-round pick whose career has been plagued by injuries.
Joseph missed all of last season for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants with a back injury. He was a late scratch for New York’s season opener and then placed on injury reserve the following week.
Joseph was the 25th overall pick out of Miami in the 2003 draft. He played in 55 games his first four seasons before the back injury, recording seven sacks and 52 solo tackles. He also forced two fumbles and had six passes defensed.
The Raiders were looking for help on the defensive line after allowing a league-worst 4.8 yards per carry and finishing second-to-last by allowing 145.9 yards per game.
Vikings sign Pope
MINNEAPOLIS – Derrick Pope signed a one-year contract Friday with the Vikings, leaving the Miami Dolphins and joining a Minnesota team looking to add depth at linebacker.
Pope is entering his fifth season in the league. He will be the fourth linebacker on the depth chart, behind starters Ben Leber, E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway.
Pope started a career-high nine games for the Dolphins last season. His role with the Vikings will include plenty of work on special teams.
Pope had 64 tackles and two interceptions for the Dolphins last year. He will help fill the void left by the departure of Dontarrious Thomas, who signed with San Francisco.
Giants keep Ward
Oft-injured Derrick Ward re-signed with the Giants on Friday after a season in which he was part of a group of running backs who did an outstanding job in replacing Tiki Barber and helped New York win the Super Bowl.
Ward rushed for 602 yards and three touchdowns before a broken left leg ended his season in December. He shared the halfback spot with Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and Reuben Droughns.
An unrestricted free agent, Ward tested the market but decided to stay.
“The Giants gave me my start,” he said. “It feels good to come back to hopefully have a good year this year and be a part of the Super Bowl champion Giants. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish my career here.”
LSU’s Miles gets raise
NEW ORLEANS – LSU will make Les Miles the highest-paid head football coach in the Southeastern Conference under a renegotiated five-year contract agreement signed Friday.
Miles will earn at least $3.75 million plus $1,000 a year in a deal that nudges him ahead of Alabama coach Nick Saban and makes Miles one of the nation’s top-paid college football coaches.
Miles also is eligible to receive more money each year, depending on the team’s performance on the field and in the classroom.
The contract adjustment was signed Friday by Miles and LSU president John Lombardi. The university system’s board must approve the deal at its April meeting to make it official.
Miles is 34-6 at LSU, with three lopsided bowl victories, since taking over for Saban in 2005.