Los Angeles Times
January 26 2002

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 missing from
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." Burbank Police
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 were
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 the international

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
Cuban team.

In 1995, Lazaro Abuin Sanchez, 17, defected from the Cuban national soccer team while at Miami International Airport, according to news reports.