March 23 – Belize’s national team was held up at gunpoint by an armed gang en route to their hotel from the airport ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Haiti.
Belize arrived in Haiti yesterday to kick off their qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but their bus was stopped by an armed gang on motorbikes. Haiti is in political turmoil ahead of the upcoming elections later this year, but it is not clear whether the gang were politically motivated.
The bus was ultimately allowed to proceed after negotiations with the police escort accompanying the bus, but via a different route to the one originally planned. There were no reports of injuries.
Belize aptain Deon McCauley described the incident as “a moment of intense fear”.
“I am happy everyone is safe and I commend you guys for being brave. Let’s continue to stick together and please make the best decisions when it comes to the team,” he said.
National coach Dale Pelayo said the team was traumatized and a number of players had said they wanted to leave the team camp.
In a statement the Belize Football Federation (FFB) said: “The Football Federation of Belize takes this time to express its disappointment and disgust at an unfortunate incident faced by the Jaguars as the team was headed from the airport to the hotel in Haiti. 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.”
“We are pleased to report that our Jaguars, although shaken by the terrible experience, are safely at their hotel.”
The FFB has contacted both FIFA and Concacaf over moving the team to a safer environment.
On, Thursday, Belize are due to play Haiti in Port-Au-Prince. Next week, they are scheduled to play the Dominican Republic in Santo Domingo.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1618611554labto1618611554ofdlr1618611554owedi1618611554sni@o1618611554fni1618611554