TORONTO (AP) — Soccer’s governing body says the three Cuban soccer players who disappeared before a World Cup qualifier against Canada have defected.
FIFA said in an email the players defected Thursday, one day before the game. U.S. Customs and Border Protection would not confirm reports the men tried to cross into the United States at the Niagara Falls border point.
Tom Rusert, a spokesman for the customs and border protection agency, said no arrests were made in relation to this case. He cited privacy concerns for not providing further information.
The defecting players left Cuban coach Alexander Gonzalez with only 11 players on his team. He said another player was ill and didn’t make it to the game, which Canada won 3-0.
On Friday, Gonzalez lamented the departures of the missing players.
‘‘As with any Cuban sport team that travels around the world, they’re all chasing the American dream,’’ he said. ‘‘And it’s difficult to try to keep the team together. ... Obviously it’s a difficult situation for the team and it’s tough for me to talk about it.’’
Last January, two players with the Cuban women’s team defected following a match against Canada in Vancouver.