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Date: 9/29/2017

Last week ihf.info reported about Cuban referee pair Alexys Zuniga Rodriguez and Raymel A. Reyes Collantes and whilst handball in Cuba is still in the developing stage on a global level, players from the country have a long history of playing across the world.

Havana-born Carlos Perez played for Veszprem and then later the Hungarian national team after gaining citizenship. Playing for Hungary, he finished top-scorer at the 2003 IHF Men’s World Championship, making the All-Star Team and then appearing in the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece.

He was voted Hungarian Handballer of the Year three times in-a-row in 2003, 2004 and 2005 and won it once more, in 2011, like Perez, Qatar national team player Rafael Capote was also born in Havana, but moved to Qatar, later winning silver with the Asian team at the 2015 IHF Men’s World Championship.

One of the most high-profile Cuban’s currently playing is line player Alexis Hernandez Borges who plays for current VELUX EHF Champions League side FC Barcelona Lassa.

Like the Sporting CP left back pairing of Frankis Carol Marzo and Pedro Veitia Valdez, Borges also started his European club career in Portugal, before the 26-year-old moved to Spain.

Last season, Sporting won the Portuguese championship and the EHF Challenge Cup and now are playing in the VELUX EHF Champions League.

The current crop of women international players for Cuba saw many playing their club handball last season across Europe with right-back Suleiky Gomez Hernandez playing for Jomi Salerno in Italy, fellow right-back Ayling Martinez, and pivot Yunisleidy Camejo, playing in Spain for Cleba Leon Balonmano, left-back Lisandra Lusson Miranda also in Spain, with Rocasa Gran Canaria ACE,  Eneleidys Guevara for Artsam Koleji Spor Kulubu in Turkey and centre back Eyatne Rizo Gomez in one of the most high-profile women’s clubs in Europe, Fluery Loiret Handball in France.

In 2015, in Denmark, the women’s team finished 23rd in their third appearance at the IHF Women’s World Championship. They had qualified after finishing runners-up following their 26:22 loss to Brazil in the final of the 2015 Pan American Women’s Championship.

That competition was held on the island, in Havana, where Gleinys Reyes ended up as top-scorer and the women’s side won all five of their group games, including an impressive 24:23 win over the strong Argentina side.

Collantes, who made his IHF World Championship debut at this year’s Men’s Youth World Championship in Georgia, strongly believes that Cuba can start competing with fellow Pan American sides at a global level soon and with another referee couple from the country potentially appearing on the international scene later in the year the future of handball looks bright for the island nation.