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Friday, 19 November, 1999, 15:40 GMT
In pictures: Castro strikes out Chavez


Cuba's Fidel Castro outfoxed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to win a friendly baseball match between the two nations in Havana.

But President Chavez turned out to be the star - winning plenty of admirers by playing all nine innings.

After the match he said the game had strengthened ties between the two nations: "Both Cuba and Venezuela have won. This deepened our friendship."






The teams consisted of veteran baseball stars. But President Castro, Cuba's coach, slowly brought on his nation's Pan American Games baseball champions dressed up as old men to secure a 5-4 victory.



President Chavez (left) was Venezuela's starting pitcher, before moving to first base after giving up four runs in four innings. Nevertheless, he was praised as a "tremendous" batter and "phenomenal" pitcher by the Cuban leader.



An unidentified baseball fan (left) was detained after jumping over the Cuban dugout and trying to hand an unidentified object to President Castro.



A 55,000 capacity crowd saw the game at Havana's Latinoamericano stadium, while both nations enjoyed live television coverage. Cuba and Venezuela share a passion for baseball in a mainly soccer-loving region.



President Castro had the last laugh: "Chavez named me manager of the Cuban team. There was no other option than to do what was necessary to win."

But he emphasised the friendly spirit of the match: "The objective wasn't to win, but to have a joke on Chavez.

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