Belize’s football federation (FFB) expressed “disappointment and disgust” on Monday after the bus carrying the squad to their hotel in Haiti was stopped by an armed gang on motorcycles.
The incident occurred when the team bus made its way from the Toussaint Louverture airport to the hotel with a police escort.
“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,” the FFB said in a statement.
“We are pleased to report that our ‘Jaguars’, although shaken by the terrible experience, are safely at their hotel.”
Fantom 509 members, a terrorist group of masked police officers, stopped Belize’s soccer team bus in Port-au-Prince. Police officers had to negotiate with the terrorists so they can allow Belize’s team bus to leave. Belize’s team traveled to Haiti to play them on Thursday. pic.twitter.com/ANRF72393l
— Onz Chery 🇭🇹 (@Onz_11) March 23, 2021
The bus was then allowed to resume its journey to the hotel after the police escorts negotiated with the insurgents.
Team co-captain Deon McCauley described the incident as “a moment of intense fear” and other members of the squad told Belize News 5 TV station they hoped to get out of Haiti as soon as possible.
“I am happy everyone is safe, and I commend you guys for being brave,” McCauley said in a statement issued by the federation. “Let’s continue to stick together and please make the best decisions when it comes to the team.”
The FFB has spoken to FIFA and CONCACAF and “is doing everything possible to get them [the team] to safer grounds.” The FFB also stressed that “the safety of the team is our top priority.”
Members of the Haitian Football Federation (FHF) visited the Belize delegation on Monday evening to express their solidarity and offer their support.
The qualifier is part of the first round of CONCACAF games for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Belize have never qualified for the World Cup finals while Haiti qualified only once, in 1974.
Information from Reuters was included in this report.