Onel Cuba mission is madness for Farke

Norwich City winger Onel Hernandez made his debut for Cuba overnight in strange circumstances

Norwich City winger Onel Hernandez made his debut for Cuba overnight in strange circumstances - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Onel Hernandez’s dream to represent Cuba is a nightmare for Norwich City boss Daniel Farke. 

Hernandez made his debut overnight in bizarre circumstances as a second half substitute in a 1-0 World Cup qualifying defeat in Guatemala.

The Canaries' wide player only arrived at the stadium in the 44th minute, after being delayed in neighbouring Mexico with planes grounded due to an ash cloud. 

Hernandez had been named on the team sheet as he headed to the stadium and was introduced at the interval after a brief warm up at the Estadio Doroteo Guamuch Flores.

The 28-year-old was unable to help his country get their campaign off to a winning start. Cuba were reduced to 10 men four minutes after Luis Martínez's 59th minute winner.

Farke knows how much a long overdue international call means to Hernandez, but the City boss is not impressed with the transatlantic trip.

“I am happy for him. It is well deserved and a proud moment for him and his family but if I am honest totally the wrong moment in my head,” said Farke. “I don’t want to talk too much about how far he has to travel to play a game for Cuba in Guatemala.

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"To do this trip in the worst pandemic in a century feels horrendous. I cannot understand how we allow this during these strange times.  

“Sometimes you are not allowed to see your family, your grandparents, your friends and we send football players into high risk areas, with many flights at strange times.

"Of course I am delighted and happy for him, and we allowed him to do this, but it is more than questionable timing.

"Last season, two seasons ago he deserved this. Fingers crossed he returns back. That is the first thing, and then he is safe and heathy.” 

The 28-year-old emigrated to Germany as a child but became the first Cuban-born player to feature in the Premier League when he was promoted with the Canaries in 2019.   

The attacker is now in line for his full debut in Sunday's second qualifier against Curacao. 

Hernandez is arguably the highest profile member of a largely home-based Cuban squad.

“I don’t actually know them," he said, speaking to the club's official site before he left for his long haul adventure. "I’ve had some conversations on video calls and messages, but it will be a new thing and I’m very excited to meet these guys.

"There’ll be a lot of questions because these are guys are living in Cuba, not the UK, Spain, Italy, or America.

“For them, to ask us questions about how it is to play football in these countries, especially the Premier League or the Championship, they’ll ask how it is, the preparations, or how everything goes.

“I think I’m ready for that because I’ll try to bring everything I’ve learnt in the past few years in Norwich to the guys and explain to them how the world of football works in this country.”

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