Interview: Miami FC’s Jorge Luis Corrales – a Cuban playing football in the US

24-year-old Cuban international Jorge Luis Corrales talks exclusively about the story behind his arrival at Miami FC, what it’s like learning from the great Alessandro Nesta and Cuban players in the US…

Jorge Luis Corrales (centre) in action for Cuba against Belize in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (pic credit: Zimbio)

Background: Following on from my interview with Puerto Rico FC head coach Adrian Whitbread just under two weeks ago, I’m back with another interview, this time it’s a one-on-one with professional Cuban footballer Jorge Luis Corrales. Thank you to NASL Press Officer, Steven Torres, for originally contacting me about the opportunity to interview Jorge. And thank you to Head of Media/Comms at Miami FC, Krissty Andaur, for his help in translating Jorge’s answers from his native Spanish to English.

First and foremost, you’re a Cuban footballer/athlete plying your trade in the US. This is obviously fairly significant…Without going too deep into politics, what have you made of Cuba’s recent decision to allow more athletes to go abroad and play sports, particularly football? Eg Maykles Reyes/Abel Martinez now in Mexico, yourself in US.

Well it’s the first time that Cuba has been able to reach that level. Previously, it was only a national championship to be played, and that was the highest level, and we went to many competitions. But now it’s great to be able to reach the level that the world requires. It is much easier for players.”

Cuba’s decision to allow more footballers to play abroad has made it much easier for players

Would you encourage more aspiring Cuban footballers back home to make the move abroad and test themselves professionally? 

Now that’s up to each individual. That comes with each person’s goals. If they love football and want to continue with that career, I believe they should think and act quick and in the best way possible, because reaching the national team is a great accomplishment and essentially the “top”, but there’s always other goals to be reached.”

What was it like playing football in Cuba as a young kid?

Besides the conditions we played with, those are beautiful memories that I will always have with me. Despite what was happening around us, we always played with love and passion for the game. Even if we didn’t have shoes to play with, or the proper clothing, we played as a team, with one goal and one dream.”

As kids we always played with love and passion for the game, even if we didn’t have shoes to play with or the proper clothing

Who gave you your first football?

My uncle. I tried all sports. I did swimming, handball, basketball, volleyball, baseball, but nothing inspired me like football.”

How did the opportunity to represent newly formed Miami FC come about?

I was just here in the US playing in the Gold Cup with Cuba and after the tournament I came back home to Cuba. I talked to my father who lived here in Miami, and told him I would go visit him. They gave me all the necessary paperwork and permits I needed to come visit him. The Miami FC was having tryouts and I decided to give it a shot. Alessandro Nesta and the coaches liked what they saw. It seems like they saw something in me. It is very odd to see a Cuban try other things and people say “wow!” And there are some out there that display the will and strength Cubans have.”

Alessandro Nesta saw something in me at the tryouts

How excited are you to play under somebody as high-profile and iconic as Alessandro Nesta?

For me, it’s the greatest experience I’ve had. Nesta is not only a legendary player but he’s a great coach. He enters each session with us, gets on the field and plays with us. He gives very good advice from all positions on the field and obviously the defense, which I’m honoured to learn from him every single day.”

Miami FC head coach Alessandro Nesta, 39, was one of the greatest defenders of his time and won the World Cup with Italy in 2006. (pic credit: celeb-true)

What are you expecting from the upcoming NASL season?

I hope for the best. The team is preparing hard, there are still details to improve, but nothing we can’t conquer. I realised that this team is very united, very competitive, but there is still a month to polish the difficulties we may have.”

What would you say are your biggest strengths as a player?

My most outstanding strength is that I persevere, I never give up, and I always try to go the extra mile to contribute and make a difference on the field.”

Persevering, never giving up and always trying to go the extra mile are my most outstanding strengths

What sort of state do you envisage Cuban football to be in within the next 5-10 years? 

I hope that these decisions taken by Cuba can help insert more Cuban players in other leagues Between now and three years, I think the level will rise beyond what fans are asking for, because you can notice a difference with the other teams in the Caribbean.”

Can you tell us any interesting or quirky stories/anecdotes that you have from your time playing football, either at club or international level?

One of the best experiences I had was at the 2011 Pan-American games in Mexico, we played against Brazil and Argentina, and it was unique because we met players of our age, and younger than us, that it’s surprising the quality they have as players. Also, we were champions of the Caribbean in 2012, which gave us qualification for the Gold Cup in 2013, and the Cup was against extraordinary players like Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey.”

I think the level of Cuban football will rise beyond what fans are asking for between now and the next three years

Corrales playing for Pinar del Rio in his native Cuba before moving to the US. (pic credit: Futbol Cubano)

You’re still only 24, but have you got any ultimate career goals/aspirations that you’re wishing to achieve? 

In the future, I want to play with my national team, support them, and give them all my experience to keep climbing to the highest point.”

By Nathan Carr

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Thank you for reading! Feel free to leave any constructive feedback in the comments box below. Big up to Steven Torres, Krissty Andaur and of course Jorge himself for sitting down and answering my questions. Meanwhile, you can get in touch with me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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