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‘Nothing to fear’ as Australia plays Honduras on edge

Tegucigalpa, Wednesday @PeopleSports11

Australia are to face Honduras for a World Cup playoff in a Central American stadium on Friday located on the edge of a cane field notorious for being where gangs dumped corpses and dismembered victims with chainsaws. But the Socceroos “have nothing to fear,” assured the police of San Pedro Sula, the host city in Honduras, pointing to greatly improved security in recent years.

“We will have the Australians eat ‘shots’ and chuco chicken,” a local specialty, rather than dodge any violence, said police spokesman Jorge Rodriguez, referring to a dish of black-bean tortillas and a local style of chicken.

The match in the city’s 40,000-place Olimpico Metropolitano Stadium is the first part of a playoff that will then see both Australia and Honduras fly to Sydney for the return tie on November 15.

The winner gets a berth in the World Cup tournament next year in Russia. San Pedro Sula built up an unenviable reputation in the past as the most murderous city in Honduras itself part of Central America’s notorious Northern Triangle, along with Guatemala and El Salvador, where gang violence, drug trafficking, poverty and corruption are rife.

Five years ago, a Mexican NGO called the place the second most violent city in all of Latin America, after Juarez in Mexico. But now, after four years of stepped-up military and police patrols and aggressive street crackdowns, things have improved, authorities insist.

Four battalions of militarised police each one comprised of 500 armed police have been installed in the area, setting up base. They are part of a get-tough policy that President Juan Orlando Hernandez has deployed against the vicious gangs.

When Australia face up to Honduras in the stadium, surrounded by barbed wire, there will be 1,200 police and soldiers deployed inside and outside the venue, in consecutive security rings, Rodriguez said, adding that drones would also be used.

“All of them will have radios, backed by video cameras and connected to a central command,” he explained. “That already worked well when the United States, Costa Rica and Mexico came” to play. -AFP

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