Ivan Prieto # 66 of Cuba celebrates home run with teammate Rangel Ramos
Baseball Fan Creates Custom Baseball Cards In Honor Of Negro Leagues Players Photo by Luis Gutierrez/Norte Photo/Getty Images

The Cuban government isn't impressed with the nine young baseball players who defected during a tournament in Mexico.

It was confirmed Sunday that out of the 24 players on the country's national team at baseball's U-23 World Cup, at least nine of them defected during the event, reported ABC News.

In a note published by the website JIT, which is the official organ of Cuba's National Sports Institute, Cuban officials called the athletes' actions “vile abandonments.” The names of the players who stayed in Mexico were not revealed by the institute.

The missing players were criticized for "weak morals and ethics" by Cuba's National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation, according to CNN.

For the Cuban officials, the recent defection is of particular embarrassment and frustration not only for the number of athletes to defect at once, but also their ages. The players, in their early 20s, represented the future of the nation's baseball and were charged with returning the country to the top spot.

The relations between the US and Cuba are strained, and three years ago, the Caribbean country signed an agreement with Major League Baseball on normalizing sports relations, but it was soon annulled by the Trump administration. The US was blamed by the Cuban officials for restrictions that make Cuban players to defect to play in the Major Leagues.

Generally, athletes who are considered as most loyal to the government are chosen to play overseas and are accompanied by government chaperones so that they don't defect.

The nine players defecting is considered the largest defection of Cuban athletes in years, but Cuban sportsmen have a long history of defecting while competing outside their country. César Prieto, one of Cuba's top baseball stars, was the most recent high-profile player to defect. Earlier this year, the 22-year-old had abandoned the team while in Florida for an Olympics qualifying game. Footballers and ballet dancers are also among players who have fled during big competitions, reported BBC.

High-profile sportsmen and sportswomen from Cuba defecting is seen as an indication of the extent of the problems in their nation. Amid pandemic, Cuba is facing an economic crisis, with medicine and food shortages. About three months ago, several Cubans protested against the government.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Cuba lost to Colombia in the bronze medal game.

Players of the Cuba run out of the dugout to celebrate victory after the game
Players of the Cuba run out of the dugout to celebrate victory after the game between Panama and Cuba as part of the WBSC U-23 Baseball World Cup at Sonora Stadium on October 1, 2021 in Hermosillo, Mexico. Photo by Luis Gutierrez/Norte Photo/Getty Images

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