Hernandez makes Cuba debut despite ash cloud

Norwich City wide player Onel Hernandez is trying to get to Central America to feature for Cuba in World Cup qualifiers

Norwich City wide player Onel Hernandez is trying to get to Central America to feature for Cuba in World Cup qualifiers - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City winger Onel Hernandez made his Cuba debut as a second half substitute in a 1-0 World Cup qualifying defeat to Guatemala. 

Hernandez only arrived at the stadium a minute before half-time, after being heavily delayed in neighbouring Mexico due to an ash cloud which had grounded planes.

Both the Canaries' winger and Real Sociedad forward Maikel Reyes were unable to meet up with the rest of the Cuban squad on Tuesday preparing for their opening World Cup qualifier in the early hours of Thursday morning (UK time).  

Flights to Guatemala’s Aurora Airport were suspended due to volcanic activity, with some local media reports on Wednesday evening still claiming Hernandez was unable to leave Mexico. 

The 28-year-old is now in line to make his full debut in Sunday's second qualifier at home to Curacao.

Hernandez 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 City wide player was previously prevented from joining the Cuban set up, despite being called up by his federation, before recent moves to embrace overseas-based players. 

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“It feels incredible, I still can’t believe it,” he said, prior to leaving Norfolk. “I got the call-up last time, and it wasn’t working out, but this time it’s possible. 

“I just want to play football and support my country, I think there was a lot more behind it and things were going on then so it wasn’t possible, it was not a nice situation. 

“It was 100% worth waiting, in my head in those moments I was thinking I was so happy, and now to go back and feel this same happiness in a better way, it’s so much better. 

“It’s crazy, this is the first time they’re calling players back. I think there’s a lot of Cuban players around the world that play football and for those guys it’s incredible as well. 

“To come back and play for our country, not only me but these other guys, with all our qualities, it’s a fantastic thing.” 

Cuba reached the quarter-finals on their previous appearance at the World Cup finals 83 years ago. 

“I think Cuba have qualified one time for the World Cup, this was in 1938," said Hernandez, speaking to his club’s official site. “If this happened again, then it will be an incredible achievement for the country. 

“It’s my vision, I don’t go to just play for fun, I want to play and represent my country in the best way we can. After that, we’ll see how far we’ve come and if it’s the World Cup, then this will be fantastic.” 

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