Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera will be on the field at Marlins Park on Wednesday night, but the former Marlins star will not be in a baseball uniform.
Cabrera, who plays for the Detroit Tigers, will take the honorary first kick in an 8 p.m. exhibition soccer match between the national teams of Venezuela and Nigeria, the first non-baseball sporting event held at the stadium.
Cabrera, a native of Venezuela, is a diehard fan of the soccer team and is friends with coach Cesar Farias and several of the players from La Vinotinto (red wine), the team’s nickname because of their traditional burgundy shirts.
The Venezuelan team is much improved recently and sits in fourth place midway through the South American World Cup qualifying tournament.
The top four South American teams, plus host Brazil, earn direct berths to the 2014 World Cup, and the fifth-place team enters a playoff for another spot.
Venezuela is the only team from South America that never has qualified for a World Cup.
La Vinotinto is coming with all its starters from the World Cup qualifying campaign, including Fernando Amoerbieta of Spanish club Athletic Bilbao, José Salomón Rondón of Russia’s Rubin Kazan and Juan Arango of Germany’s Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Cesar Gonzalez, formerly of Argentine team River Plate, is also on the roster, as are several up-and-coming young players.
“Now we can aspire to more things in the World Cup qualifiers,” Farias said. “I think Venezuela’s advances in the soccer world are indisputable, and people have more respect for our team now.
“To earn that respect, we had to overcome many obstacles. … We are looking forward to the game against Nigeria because there is such a big Venezuelan population in Miami. We don’t get many chances to play teams from Africa and Asia, so this is a great chance for us.”
Venezuela last played in Miami in 2003, against Honduras at the Orange Bowl.
Nigeria has called in 11 foreign-based players for the match, including Chelsea’s Victor Moses, Newcastle’s Shola Ameobi, 2010 World Cup star Obafemmi Martins and Israel-based veteran goalkeeper Austin Ejide.
The Super Eagles are using the game to prepare for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, which begins Jan. 19 in South Africa.
Ameobi is expected to play up front with Moses and Brown Ideye, who is based in Ukraine.
Other Nigerian players to watch include defender Apam Onyekachi, back from injury at Nice FC of France, and Portugal-based defender Elderson Echiejile.
Portland Timbers forward Bright Dike was invited, as well.
Dike was born in Edmund, Okla., but his parents are from Nigeria, so he is eligible to play for their national team. The 25-year-old scored five goals in the final 12 games of the Timbers season.
The Super Eagles are coached by Stephen Keshi.