Cuban athletes missing
Soccer players may have defected while staying in Burbank hotel.
By Ryan Carter
AIRPORT DISTRICT -- Two players from the Cuban national soccer team
reportedly have defected to the United States after they were discovered
their Burbank hotel room.
Team officials told Burbank Police late Thursday that Rey Angel Martinez,
20, and Alberto Delgado, 22, could not be found at the Burbank Airport
Hilton. The team
was staying there while competing in the Gold Cup at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena this week, police said.
"These guys decided, for whatever reason, to wander off," Burbank Police
Sgt. John Dilibert said. "Later on, the group realized they were gone."
declined to confirm whether they believe the men have defected but said no foul play is suspected in their disappearances.
The investigation has been referred to the FBI and INS. An FBI spokeswoman
said the men had not sought asylum with that agency by Friday night, nor
officials there actively looking for them. INS officials could not be reached for comment.
The pair fled to a friend's home in Los Angeles, according to an article Friday in the Miami-based Spanish-language newspaper El Nuevo Herald.
In the story, Martinez reportedly told the Herald that the two had planned
to leave the tightly controlled team since it arrived in Los Angeles for
They want to seek out professional opportunities in the United States while supporting their families in Cuba, the Herald reported.
The team, which lost 1-0 to the United States team Monday, returned
to Cuba on Friday, police said. Apparently, Martinez and Delgado were key
members of the
In 1995, Lazaro Abuin Sanchez, 17, defected from the Cuban national soccer team while at Miami International Airport, according to news reports.