Belize squad ‘shaken’ after being stopped by gunmen in Haiti ahead of World Cup qualifier

Belize are in Haiti for the first of their 2022 World Cup Qualifying

Belize’s national football team were briefly held by gunmen in Haiti, with the country’s federation (FFB) expressing “disappointment and disgust” at the “terrible experience”.

The bus taking the squad to their hotel in the country’s capital, Port-Au-Prince was, before being ambushed by an armed gang on motorcycles.

Belize are in the Caribbean to play a 2022 World Cup qualifier and the FFB is now in touch with Fifa and Concacaf “to get them to safer territory”.

“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.”

The federation posted a picture on its Facebook page of the incident, showing the gang wearing masks and carrying weapons.

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Team 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.

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CONCACAF did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

The qualifier, slated for Thursday, 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.

Haiti is currently suffering from an economic and political crisis and is operating under a state of emergency since 18 March.

Criminal networks have operated with complete control over some poor and densely populated neighbourhoods in Port-Au-Prince, leading to “no-go” zones where kidnap victims have been held.

There has been a sharp rise in kidnappings for ransom this year with both the wealthy and those from more modest backgrounds targeted.

Reuters

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