Home 2015 – Joma
Easily the largest and most populous of all the Caribbean islands, the Communist Republic of Cuba lies just over 100 miles from the US mainland, a proximity that’s bound to encourage a slew of desperate migration attempts as thousands look to escape their backwards, oppressive regime and slimy, repugnant dictator, and make a new home for themselves in Cuba. Joking aside, relations between Cuba and the United States have long been a little bit strained, in the same sense that filling your underwear with jam and sitting on an ants nest would be a little bit uncomfortable. The long tumble downhill first began with Fidel Castro’s Marxist revolution in 1959, followed by a cosying up to the USSR and an offer to house some of their new bestie’s nuclear warheads, capable of reducing New York to a smoking crater, Washington DC to an apocalyptic wasteland and Detroit into Detroit circa 2017. Luckily, the infamous ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’* was ultimately diffused when the Soviets agreed to remove their nukes in exchange for an American promise not to invade Cuba, prompting the CIA to explore alternative methods of removing Castro including the notorious’exploding cigar plot’, which didn’t have the desired effect, presumably because life is not a Tom and Jerry cartoon.
*For those who don’t know their history, this incident essentially represents the closest we’ve ever come to full-blown nuclear war, that is until a certain chubby Korean manchild and a luminous blond American fuckhead inevitably send each other, ahem,’ballistic.’
More recently, with the Cold War a faded memory, and with good old Fidel having popped his clogs in a disappointingly sedate and natural manner in 2016, Cubans have been hard at work developing their tourism industry, coaxing in visitors with a whimsical 1950s time-warp vibe, some classic colonial architecture, and coffee so strong that anyone necking sufficient quantities could probably see into the future, possibly as far as the 1980s. Traditional agriculture such as tobacco cultivation remains important however. Cuban cigars are widely regarded as the world’s finest and are readily smoked by local men, women and children, although the latter are only allowed them on birthdays or at Christmas, as well as Easter, New Year, Halloween, weekends, weekdays or simply as a reward any time their Emphysema screening comes back clear. In a possibly related matter, Cuba also possesses the highest doctor to patient ratio in the entire world, although a lack of basic medical supplies combined with a somewhat haphazard approach to accurate diagnosis should make patients think twice before booking a health trip to Havana.
It may come as something of a surprise to outsiders that, despite the often frosty relationship they have with the United States, Cubans do love a bit of baseball, which is the national sport and a throwback to a simpler time before anybody on the island had ever heard of Lenin or Marx, and when slapping a piece of horsehide with a stick was considered good, wholesome family entertainment. Football, meanwhile, has largely been left to feed off scraps when it comes to local sporting affections and the national team aren’t exactly pulling their weight in this regard. In a region where the country’s 11 million plus population comfortably dwarfs that of most of their rivals, Cuba’s solitary Caribbean Cup title in 2012 represents a rather pitiful return, well short of the eight titles Trinidad & Tobago have wracked up, and just about on par with tiny Curacao, who were surprise 2017 champions, and non-FIFA member Martinique, winners in 1993. More impressively, the Cubans have reached the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarter finals three times – sometimes beating much higher ranked teams such as Canada and Guatemala en route – although things invariably go a tad pear-shaped at this juncture, resulting in thrashings by Panama, (6-1 in 2013), and twice by the USA (5-0 in 2003 and 6-0 in 2015.)
When it comes to the World Cup, Cuba holds the surprising distinction of being the first ever Caribbean nation to play at the tournament, albeit way back in the mists of time, well, 1938 anyway. The teams’s road to the finals in France wasn’t exactly wrought with peril, in fact it wasn’t really wrought with anything, nor was it what most people would reasonably call a road seeing as all of their qualifying opponents in the North America zone withdrew before a ball had even been kicked, thus handing the Cubans a bye into the main draw. Furthermore, as FIFA had decreed that this edition would consist of just 16 teams in a straight knockout format with no group stages, Cuba’s surprise 2-1 victory over Romania in a replayed match – this was before the introduction of penalty shootouts – made them perhaps the World Cup’s most unlikely ever quarter-finalists, though any pretensions they might have harboured about being amongst the best eight teams in the world were unceremoniously washed away in an 8-0 hammering by Sweden. No Cuban national side has come within sniffing distance of the finals since, and with teams like Mexico, Costa Rica and the USA – absence from Russia 2018 aside – typically dominating the CONCACAF qualifying region, their best hopes will surely be from 2026 onward when the tournament expansion to 48 teams kicks in and there should be up to seven finals slots to aim at, although even this might be a trifle ambitious unless the country’s sports authorities take the necessary steps today to ween promising youngsters off of what is essentially just a shit version of Rounders.
Yet another colourful, culturally vibrant and politically combustible nation represented by a plain, unimaginative piece of fabric. Joma took over design responsibilities for the Cuban national team in 2014 but clearly weren’t all that bothered about giving them something distinctive, instead churning out these dull red shirts for use at the 2015 Gold Cup finals, where the team suffered their customary thrashing at the quarter final stage against the US. On the plus side, this is at least a step up from previous Cuba kits, many of which didn’t even feature a badge, instead opting to simply plant the name “Cuba” on the chest instead, or occasionally substituting in a flag if the designers were feeling randy. See below.
In fact, now that I look even closer, it’s quite clear that the crazy sonsofbitches at Joma have gone massively overboard here. I mean, they’ve included BOTH the Football Association logo and a flag AS WELL. The flag didn’t even appear on the player’s version. I take it all back. This is, in actuality, a crazy, uninhibited expression of excess and decadence. Who knows, future versions might even feature something even more daring such as side panels, contrasting shades or even, whisper it quietly, a different coloured collar. Truly the sky’s the limit.