Work in Sports
Honduran players refuse to go to qualifying tournament
Posted: Wednesday April 19, 2000 06:50 PM
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) -- Honduras withdrew from an Olympic qualifying tournament Wednesday after the players refused to travel to Hershey, Pa., until they are paid bonuses promised to them.
The Hondurans were to begin play Friday night against the United States.
The game has not been postponed or forfeited, said Rick Lawes, spokesman for the governing body of soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean.
"Our current understanding from the Honduran football federation is that they will be here," he said Wednesday. "We have no reason to change the schedule as it currently stands."
The Honduran soccer federation suspended 16 of the 18 players on the Olympic team for two years, saying they had done irreparable damage to Honduran soccer.
The players demanded bonuses of $1,500 each that the federation promised if they made it to the final round of the Olympic qualifying tournament. The team did by placing second in a four-team round-robin in Mexico two weeks ago.
The federation said it planned to pay them next week, but the players refused to board the plane. Honduras was one six teams in the tournament in which two nations will win spots for the Sydney Olympics.
Honduras was grouped with the United States and Canada. The other group is made up of Guatemala, Mexico and Panama.
"We won't go to Pennsylvania because we haven't been paid the bonus promised in advance," read a statement signed by all but two of the team members. "We depend on that money to support our families."
The players, who have been training at the El Hatillo camp outside the capital, hiked nine miles home after the federation refused to send a bus to get them.
"We're just fighting for our rights," captain Ivan Guerrero said. "The federation promised us a prize if we qualified and didn't deliver. So if they punish us, so be it."
The president of the Honduran soccer federation, Lisandro Flores Guillen, said he was forced to withdraw the team from the tournament.
He said the country could face sanctions from international soccer officials, including a ban from the World Cup.
"This is a sad day for Honduran soccer," Guerrero said. "I feel frustrated, sad and ashamed by what happened. ... The kids' decision is based purely on money."