Cuba's Yosniel Mesa defects

Updated: June 12, 2011, 9:39 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- A Cuban player has defected during CONCACAF's Gold Cup tournament, leaving the team hotel in Charlotte, N.C.

In an interview aired Sunday on Univision, Yosniel Mesa says he decided before the tournament to defect. Mesa says the decision was difficult, but the 30-year-old wants to play professionally and that's not possible in Cuba.

Cuba played Mexico in Charlotte on Thursday night, losing 5-0. After the game, Mesa says he climbed down a fire escape ladder and ran to a car where family members were waiting. Mesa was listed as "injured" on Cuba's roster for Sunday's 6-1 loss to El Salvador in Chicago. The team left Soldier Field immediately after the game, with coach Raul Gonzalez skipping the customary postgame news conference.

CONCACAF spokesman Ben Spencer declined comment.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press