Belize Soccer Team's Bus Stopped by Gunmen Ahead of World Cup Qualifier

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2021

An Adidas Finale Istanbul 21 ball, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the starball design, is seen through the goal net before the Champions League round of 16, first leg, soccer match between RB Leipzig and Liverpool at the Ferenc Puskas stadium in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Laszlo Balogh)
Laszlo Balogh/Associated Press

The Belize men's national soccer team had its bus stopped by an armed group of Haitian insurgents while traveling to its hotel on Monday ahead of a Thursday World Cup qualifier against Haiti in Port-Au-Prince, per ESPN's Adriana Garcia

The team was traveling from the Toussaint Louverture airport to its hotel with a small police escort when an armed motorcycle gang surrounded the bus. 

"Despite the four-man police escort, the team bus was stopped by an uproar of insurgents with assault rifles on motorcycles and police escorts were forced to negotiate with them for the team bus to continue its journey to the hotel," Belize's football federation (FFB) said in a statement. "We are pleased to report that our 'Jaguars,' although shaken by the terrible experience, are safely at their hotel."

The FFB expressed "disappointment and disgust" with the situation, while team captain Deon McCauley called it "a moment of intense fear"

"I am happy everyone is safe, and I commend you guys for being brave," he said in a statement. "Let's continue to stick together and please make the best decisions when it comes to the team."

The FFB said it is working with FIFA and CONCACAF in an effort to house the team in safer conditions. Garcia reported that Haiti's football federation (FHF) met with the FFB "to express their solidarity and offer their support." 

Belize is attempting to qualify for its first World Cup appearance, while Haiti is trying to qualify for its second appearance, last reaching the World Cup in 1974.