Mario Lara is a Cuban exiled in the United States since 1997. In 2014, he decided to create the Fortuna SC, a soccer club which aims to bring Cuban soccer players together in Miami. For Jurisportiva, he reviews with great sincerity, his arrival in the United States of America, his relationship with the Cuban Government, and on the creation of the Fortuna Soccer Club.
Fortuna SC is the cradle of Cuban Soccer in MiamiMario Lara
Hi Mario, can you first introduce yourself?
My Name is Mario Lara, I am the happy founder of the “Blog del Fútbol Cubano” and the Fortuna Soccer Club (« The Fortuna SC »). I was born in Cuba but I migrated to the United States in 1996, then I moved to Colombia in 1997 and finally went back to the United States in 2001. A year later, I joined the US Navy and served until 2012 when an injury forced me to retire.
How did you get the idea to create this club? Are you passionate about soccer? When did you get to the USA?
I had the idea to create the Fortuna Soccer Club in 2014 in order to allow all the Cubans players who lived in Miami, to play for us. They were all playing for different teams. The idea was to unify our forces so we can compete in the Copa Latina, a famous Tournament in Miami.
After the Tournament the players asked me to not let the idea die. We played in one of the multiple Leagues in Miami, and I started to coach the team.
In this project, I received a lot of help from Anderson Padron, a good friend who already had a team (Union USA) with Cuban players playing in the Sunday League. He helped me to understand better how soccer works in Miami, the League system especially. He also loaned us players for Fortuna SC.
What is the purpose of Fortuna SC?
The purpose of this club was to allow Cuban immigrants to share a common passion: soccer. For some, the Fortuna SC allowed them to get spotted by recruiters and become professional, for others, just to stay fit.
Fortuna SC is a good way to meet Cubans in Miami, keep in touch and to practice soccer all together.
How is Cuban Soccer doing?
Some will tell you that Cuban soccer is doing well, especially because the national team now has players who play in professional clubs around the world, but in fact, Cuban Soccer does not really exist today.
In view of all the issues that the country has (from Covid to a Political), we can’t really say that there is a national championship because all players are staying at home without playing. Furthermore, there is the increasing trend of players requesting their release from the Cuban Federation in order to have a better future somewhere else. This is the consequence of the actions of the Cuban Federation, which calls in the national team only the players playing abroad.
Does sport reflect the Cuban revolution?
The Cuban Revolution has always used sports as propaganda to demonstrate their “superiority”. Baseball, boxing and other sports have been among the ones that benefited the most from that policy whilst soccer has been left out. For the Cuban authorities, soccer was a kind of enemy for baseball and they did everything they could to destroy that sport, i.e. it was normal practice to use the money of soccer for other sports.
Many young Cubans arrive in the United States with the American dream in mind and a lot quickly find themselves disappointed. What do you think?
While some of the young players come to the United States in order to become professional, others are just looking for a better life. But if there’s one thing these two types of people have in common, it’s that leaving for America was the best decision they’d ever made. Playing soccer professionally or not, they have a better future here than the one they were expecting.
Becoming a professional soccer player for Cubans is very complicated for many reasons, the first one is because of their nationality. Being Cuban is a big handicap because many coaches and teams don’t see us as soccer players because of the propaganda that has lasted for over 60 years in Cuba.
The second one is explained by the fact that they need to feed their families in Cuba. The salaries in the lower divisions in the United States are very low and this forced some of them to refuse possible contracts because they need more to support their families needs.
Can we say that Fortuna FC is the second home of Cuban soccer players living in Miami?
Fortuna became, without doubt, the second house for the Cuban Soccer Players in Miami. We have been called “The House of Cuban Soccer in Miami”, but the team is no longer only composed of Cuban Players, over the time, players from other nationalities have expressed the desire to join the team and they have been playing for us. Over 90 percent of the team is composed of Cuban Players or with Cuban Roots.
Do you have ambitions to become a professional club ?
Yes, of course. The ambition to become one day a Professional Club exists, but to be realistic it’s very hard due to the costs here in the USA. Likewise, it is complicated to find sponsors that fit with our Cuban values and above all to find a place where to train regularly because the Youth Academies have taken all the soccer fields and made it almost impossible.
What are your relations with the Cuban authorities?
My relations with the Cuban Soccer Authorities have always been tense. For years, I was the one who uncovered their corruption, their lack of interest in developing soccer in Cuba, and the mistreatment of those Cuban players. They labelled me as someone who wants to destroy the Cuban Soccer spreading “lies » about them and that I convinced players to defect from the Cuba National Team. Several times, they managed to get my information sources but I always found a way to get out of it. Also, they were trying to discredit the information in the blog with some “anonymous” comments. However, it became complicated for them to deny because it was testimonials from players and their families on my blog. The truth always triumphs.