For the first time in the nations’ history, Cuba have called professional players residing outside of the country up to their international squad.
One of these players is Norwich City’s very own Onel Hernandez, who has been called up for Cuba’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala and Curacao in the upcoming international break.
Speaking to canaries.co.uk, Hernandez described the call-up as an unbelievable feeling and worth the wait, especially after his first call-up in November 2018 was later rescinded.
“It feels incredible, I still can’t believe it. I got the call-up last time, and it wasn’t working out, but this time it’s possible.
“It’s a fantastic feeling that I still can’t believe because I’m not there yet, it’s a long way to get there and we have to see what happens, but I’m very proud and happy.
“It was a horrible feeling [to have a call-up rescinded] because I just want to play football and support my country, I think there was a lot more behind it and things were going on then so it wasn’t possible, it was not a nice situation.
“It was 100% worth waiting, in my head in those moments I was thinking I was so happy, and now to go back and feel this same happiness in a better way, it’s so much better.
“It’s crazy, this is the first time they’re calling players back. I think there’s a lot of Cuban players around the world that play football and for those guys it’s incredible as well.
“To come back and play for our country, not only me but these other guys, with all our qualities, it’s a fantastic thing.”
Going without a call-up means the City winger has never made his Cuba debut, which he says would be a dream come true.
“I think a debut would be amazing, I can’t imagine that situation and how it will be because I’m not there yet. If it’s like how I see it in my head and how I’ve dreamt about it, it would be an amazing situation, I would be so proud and happy.”
As he joins the Cuba squad over the international break, Hernandez has a lot of new faces to meet and questions to answer, adding that he’s never met any of his soon-to-be international teammates.
“I don’t actually know them [the Cuba internationals]! I’ve had some conversations on video calls and messages, but it will be a new thing and I’m very excited to meet these guys. There’ll be a lot of questions because there are guys are living in Cuba, not the UK, Spain, Italy, or America.
“For them, to ask us questions about how it is to play football in these countries, especially the Premier League or the Championship, they’ll ask how it is, the preparations, or how everything goes.
“I think I’m ready for that because I’ll try to bring everything I’ve learnt in the past few years in Norwich to the guys and explain to them how the world of football works in this country.”
Finally, asked how he would feel to see Cuba qualify for the upcoming World Cup, Hernandez says it would be ‘fantastic’ to play a part in the country's qualification for the first time since 1938.
“I think Cuba have qualified one time for the World Cup, this was in 1938, I think! It was once. If this happened again, then it will be an incredible achievement for the country.
“It’s my vision, I don’t go to just play for fun, I want to play and represent my country in the best way we can. After that, we’ll see how far we’ve come and if it’s the World Cup, then this will be fantastic.”