Jasiel Rivero: Cuba Va!
By: PABLO CORMICK
CORRIENTES (DIRECTV Liga de las Américas 2018) - As Cuban songwriter Silvio Rodríguez sings, “Cuba va, Cuba va (Cuba moves forward, Cuba moves forward!”) And precisely him, Silvio Rodríguez, is one of the most representative Cuban artists who “makes you think with his songs,” according to his fellow countryman Jasiel Rivero, small forward for Estudiantes de Concordia. However, when he wants to clear his head, the foreigner at this Argentine club from the city of Entre Rios prefers to listen to reggaeton by Los 4 o La Charanga.
Rivero, 24, was raised in the neighborhood of La Construcción, in the Havana municipality of Boyeros. From the house he lived with his mother, sister, and two nieces, he would walk to the Augusto Olivare primary school. There, he started to play basketball when he was 12 years old. He then continued his studies at Escuela Eide Maritales de Barbado, a boarding school he arrived at every Sunday evening and stayed until Friday when classes were over. Then, he parted to visit his family. With this education, he achieved a technical title in Sports Sciences.
“Education is very good and very important in our country and it helps us to be better persons. Study comes first, and then, sports,” Rivero underlines. During those formative years, coaches saw in him a talented young man with a bright future. And they were not wrong. He played in the Cuban League and was champion in the Capitalinos de La Habana Club, located after Plaza de la Revolución —that frames the monument to José Martí and the ubiquitous images of Ernesto Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. That famous phrase by Che Guevara, “¡Hasta la victoria, siempre! (Until victory, always!)” marked Rivero’s path. And his own victory would be to give it his all with the National Team to later move on to competitions of a greater level.
The 2014 Centrobasket in Tepic, Mexico, was the stage where everyone set their eyes on this young man that jumped like few others, had an uncontrollable potency, and good technical tools. In 2015, the Cuban Federation reached an agreement with the government, to allow players to work as professionals outside their country. That year, Rivero moved to Uruguay to play with Tabaré. There, he was the greatest scorer and rebounder of the League until he fractured a toe of his right foot. After his recovery, he traveled to Argentina, to meet his next port: Estudiantes de Concordia. Sadly, his injury reappeared and he had to step away from the court once again. But Rivero went back to Estudiantes to give it another shot. And the evidence that he is doing a good job is in front of us all.
“In Argentine basketball I changed the way I trained and played. It's a much more tactic basketball that requires that we study all our rivals, something that's very different to what goes on in Cuba,” the 6’7” forward explains. And he not only modified his habits within the court: “Here I eat healthier and with more variety, and that’s very good for my physique.” Of course, besides his balanced meal, Jasiel cannot avoid the temptation of a nice asado (Argentine barbecue roast). “I love it, it’s super delicious,” assures the Cuban that has transformed into a specialist, although, he admits “I only eat it, I don’t try to prepare it because I don’t want to screw with everybody's meat.” Another custom that Rivero has incorporated is that of drinking mate or tereré (a traditional South American infused drink) with friends.
Jasiel Rivero's family has been supportive since he started to play outside of Cuba. “They're happy because they know I'm doing what I like and that I'm fulfilling my dreams,” says the small forward, although he remembers that the first time he traveled to Uruguay “they were nervous because they didn’t know how I would be, living alone.”
The possibility that came up in the last few years for Cuban basketball players to leave the island to be foreign reinforcements in more important leagues has caused them to exponentially increase their level. “With several players in foreign leagues, I hope that we could help the National Team to recover a main role in Central America and we can get a gold medal in a tournament,” Jasiel says. Now, his dream is to go to Europe to play: “It would be a dream come true to play in Spain, which is one of the toughest leagues in the world, or in another European country.”
As Silvio Rodríguez sings, “Cuba va, Cuba va.”