On Friday, the Football Federation of Belize introduced the men’s national team which will be participating in a series of regional matches ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in 2022. The team arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti this morning where they are scheduled to play at the Sylvio Cator Stadium on Thursday afternoon. Instead of receiving a warm welcome from residents, however, the team was met with jeers and snickering. To make matters worse before they could even get to their hotel, the bus in which they were traveling was intercepted by armed bikers who descended on a police escort that was assigned to the team. Guns were drawn and pointed towards the bus. Needless to say the experience has traumatized the players and the fate of Thursday’s inaugural match now hangs in the balance. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
A harrowing ordeal involving the Belize Jaguars upon arriving in Port-au-Prince earlier today, threatens a soccer match to be held on Thursday with Haiti’s national football team. The first round of World Cup Qualifiers has been marred by an incident during which armed men approached a tour bus that was escorted by a small detail of law enforcement officers. Onboard was Belize’s national selection, including Ian “Yello” Gaynair.
Ian “Yello” Gaynair, Defense, Belize Jaguars
“Suddenly, we were about to make a turn to go up a hill, then next thing you know, before that we had four police escort, two at the back and two at the front. Suddenly, we saw so many motorcycles with a lot of men and they were armed. You know, they stopped the bus and all we see, they were talking to the police them. After that we wanted to know what was happening. The next, they wanted us to turn back, pointing their guns at the police. So we don’t know what to do. And then some of us were doing some video and they pointed on the bus and said cut out the video, so we had to cut the video, pull the curtain. Mein, all of us were really traumatized, fearing we didn’t know what would happen. Next thing we thought they would even want to come on the bus.”
Twenty-three players, as well as their coaching staff, had just cleared customs and immigration and were en route to their hotel when they were accosted. Haiti has been in the throes of violent protests, particularly in the capital city where two police officers were killed today.
Marlon Kuylen, Executive, F.F.B.
“We’ve reported our discontent to both CONCACAF and FIFA and we’ve told them in no uncertain terms that we want to get our players out of the country, however, the match commissioner is arriving tomorrow to assess the situation and decide what happens from there.”
According to Gaynair, the players have been demoralized in the wake of the frightening experience.
“I think everybody is kinda down, ah mean, we noh even di think bout play dis game that much right now. We just di worry bout fu we safety first, fi know that we wahn be good and if we know that we wahn be good then maybe, but ah mean. But if not we woulda almost wahn go play di game pan wahn neutral ground or something like that. Nobody noh even wahn leff dis hotel fi go train right now, you know.”
“The players, they are frazzled. They cannot focus on playing. We were supposed to go training, we have training times and they don‘t want to leave the hotel. Our safety is not guaranteed and what if we win? If we win and the crowd gets out of control again, who‘s to say that we will be safe. So we made all this known to FIFA and hopefully they make a decision quite soon.”
The experience, nonetheless, has been an eye-opener for the team.
“All of us were just amazed and like really shocked and surprised about how the people are living in this country. We‘ve never seen this before, never ever. You know, we only heard about this, I mean or maybe see it on TV or something like that but it was a living reality we saw today mein for real. I mean this country really poor mein and the people here. It really let us, I mean, we appreciate our own country for real. This is a bad but still a great experience so far, you know. All ah we just tek out fu we camera because ah everything weh just di happen round we while di bus di go, yoh know, so we di do wahn lotta video shoot and you know, tek pictures ah everything weh we di sih, yoh know, image and just sih how everybody pan di side, how everybody di try sell something. Yoh have more sellers than buyers here, everybody, literally everybody di try sell something.”
The fate of the match will be decided upon the arrival of the match commissioner on Tuesday. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.
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 this morning 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.
The situation is one that the team should have never faced but we are pleased to report that our Jaguars, although shaken by the terrible experience, are safely at their hotel. We take this opportunity to thank the Jaguars for their bravery and inform their families that the safety of our team is our top priority. We are currently in contact with respective authorities from FIFA and Concacaf and are doing everything possible to get them to safer grounds. It is unfortunate that our Jaguars faced such a traumatic experience.
Team Co-Captain Deon McCauley shared with the team “ I am happy everyone is safe and I commend you guys for being brave. It was a moment of intense fear. Let’s continue to stick together and please make the best decisions when it comes to the team.”
Re: Belize Jaguars Are Held at Gunpoint upon Arrival in Haiti
#549046 03/24/2104:31 AM03/24/2104:31 AM
Last night, we told you how the Belize National Football Team, the Jaguars, had a scary experience in Port-au-Prince, Haiti yesterday. They arrived to play their first match in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers against the Haitian National Team, and while they were being transported to their hotel from the airport, they were intercepted by armed insurgents on motorcycles.
At this time, sustained civil unrest is occurring in Haiti, and there has been an upsurge in violent protests. So, the safety of the Belizean delegation was threatened when the Haitian insurgents, armed with assault rifles, surrounded their chartered bus. After about 10 to 15 minutes, the Haitian police escorts were able to defuse the situation, and the armed men dispersed, which allowed the team to reach their hotel rooms safely.
It left the team shaken up, and they are refusing to leave the hotel, much less to train for their match against Haiti, which is still in limbo at this time. As we told you, the FFB is pushing for the team to exit Haiti as soon as possible, and that Belize is given its 3 points toward the qualifiers. We are told that this would happen if Haiti decides to forfeit the match, but that they can choose to disagree on the grounds that they had nothing to do with the threat to the safety of the Belizean delegation.
This evening, the FFB sent out a press release to note that a FIFA official is on the ground in Haiti to assess the situation. After his official report is submitted, the respective authorities at CONCACAF and FIFA will make an informed decision on the matter.
The FFB is thanking everyone who reached out to them in solidarity with Team Belize for this unfortunate incident.
Fate of World Cup Qualifier to be Decided by Match Commissioner
The first round of World Cup Qualifiers between Belize and Haiti is scheduled for Thursday afternoon at the Sylvio Cator Stadium in Port-au-Prince. At news time this evening, an investigation is being conducted by a senior FIFA match commissioner to determine whether the game between the Belize Jaguars and Haiti’s national football team can proceed as planned. As we reported, the delegation of Belizean athletes and coaching staff that arrived in the capital city on Monday was met by a swarm of heavily armed bikers who intercepted a charter bus that was transporting the team to its hotel. There was a standoff with the police officers escorting the team and guns were drawn. The frightening ordeal threatens the match because of safety concerns that have arisen in the wake of the holdup. Late this evening, News Five spoke with F.F.B. executive Marlon Kuylen who confirmed that the match commissioner had arrived in Haiti and that a probe is underway. Until a decision is made the Belize Jaguars have to stay put or face sanctions should the team leave the country prematurely.
Marlon Kuylen, Executive, F.F.B.
“FIFA sent one of their most experienced and professional match commissioner to Haiti today and he is currently conducting his investigations. He’s doing his interviews with all the relevant parties and based on his findings, his assessment, he will then forward his report and recommendation to CONCACAF and FIFA who will ultimately make the final decision.”
“In a situation like this, is there any sanction that can be brought against the host country considering the fact that this incident was not of the doing of the visiting team?”
“I would have to visit the regulations to see what it says in there, however, I can tell you that should we leave without giving or having FIFA doing their due diligence and after they make the report and say it‘s safe and we had left, we could have been fined.”
“So it‘s a matter of team Belize, the Jaguars, waiting it out to see what the final decision will be from the match commissioner before they even decide to board a flight to return or to head to the stadium on Thursday to play the match?”
“Now have you had an opportunity to speak with any of the guys or the coaching staff today to see what the tempo has been like for them? It‘s a new day, they’re still facing the same situation, what the changes are and how they feel?”
“Well the change, there was a change in attitude and mentality today in the sense that since we‘re there and we‘ve prepared for so long that we continue with the preparations as if though the match will play. In other words, yesterday we were like, we wanted to leave now and this is not safe but the attitude changed today.”
World Cup qualifying game between Belize and Haiti is a go!
After a FIFA’s Match Commissioner reviewed Haiti’s unstable situation, he confirmed on Wednesday, March 24th, that the World Cup qualifier between Belize and that country would continue as scheduled. The game is taking place tomorrow, Thursday, March 25th starting at 3PM Belize time.
The FIFA’s Commissioner arrived in Port-au-Prince yesterday to assess the situation caused by Haiti’s political turmoil. In regards to the incident, part of a correspondence to the FFB, FIFA Head of Qualifiers, and International Matches Tournaments and Events Division reported the following to General Secretary for FFB Earl Jones says:
“No tensions were palpable any longer, and the reported incident was clarified with additional security measures being agreed and undertaken to prevent any repetition, as it was a reported case of miscommunication that led to the bus being driven in a wrong area. Full, open, and cordial discussions were fruitfully held and assurances were given for an upgraded security plan to be implemented. The safety and the security of the visiting team’s delegation, of FIFA’s match officials as well as of all actors of this match are guaranteed at all times during the period of stay in Haiti.”
The note also highlighted that ‘there are no impediments which prevent the match from taking place as scheduled.’After tomorrow’s qualifier, the Jaguars will head over to the Dominican Republic on Friday. They will take on Turks and Caicos on Tuesday, March 30th, for their second game.
Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun
Re: Belize Jaguars Are Held at Gunpoint upon Arrival in Haiti
#549067 03/25/2104:34 AM03/25/2104:34 AM
After a few days of uncertainty, FIFA, the world's governing body for football, has decided that it is safe enough for the Belize National Football team to play its match against the Haitian National Team tomorrow at 3:00 in Port Au Prince.
FIFA made the decision after their match commissioner did a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding Monday's incident. By now you've heard all about that incident where the team was in transit to its hotel from the airport when a group of heavily armed Haitian insurgents intercepted their chartered bus.
Although the safety of the Belizean delegation was threatened by this group, their police escorts were able to defuse the situation. An investigation has subsequently revealed that the driver of the bus took it on the wrong route - through one of the rough parts of Port Au Prince. As we've reported, sustained civil unrest has been taking place in different parts of that country.
A press release from the Football Federation of Belize says, quote, "FIFA's Match Commissioner arrived in Port-au-Prince yesterday morning. He immediately held several meetings with the police and the security forces as well as with the two participating Member Associations' delegations on site. No tensions were palpable any longer and the reported incident was clarified with additional security measures being agreed and undertaken to prevent any repetitionâ€¦assurances were given for an upgraded security plan to be implemented." End quote.
This evening, we got a chance to speak via teleconference with FFB's Marlon Kuylen, and here's what he told us about the additional security measures that have been implemented to keep the Jaguars safe while they are in Haiti:
Marlon Kuylen - Executive Member, FFB "The match commissioner that FIFA sent, who also doubles as a security officer, is very well experienced and a professional, and I can attest to this because I've worked with him for several matches before. And so, I kept abreast of what was happening on the ground. So, I was not surprised when we got the notification today that the match will proceed. Basically, he said he walked through the airport without any problems. He took photos; he took videos that he was willing to share. He went about speaking to all involved, all the relevant parties, security, both delegates, and whoever else that needed to be interviewed, and found that the incident that happened was an isolated one. The Belize bus or the team was not targeted, and because of a miscommunication, we were taken on the wrong route. When I saw the footage, I was wonder [the] same because I saw all the dirt on the road, and my first thought was who in their right mind would take a bus full of tourists, or a delegation from an airport, coming to a tropical city through an area that looks like that. So, I have confidence really that this gentleman did his due diligence, and based on his recommendations, FIFA is saying, 'You know, it's safe to go ahead and play the match."
"The match commissioner assured me that he spoke to the Commissioner of Police and the head of the armed forces, and that they've beefed up security, and that they have guaranteed our safety at the hotel, to and from the stadium, and to the airport, when we leave."
"For the mental preparation, we know that our players are in physical condition for the match. Now, it's just a matter of getting them mentally prepared. So, the Federation and the coaching staff are looking at ways how we'll prepare them for that match tomorrow mentally."
"What want is - you know there's been some negativity. Emotions ran high, even for us. We were hell-bent on getting the players out, but now we've gone past that. And, I'm just hoping that the country will put their support behind the Jaguars, and cheer them on to victory."
The game can be seen on TNC carried by Central TV and Internet tomorrow afternoon - and we'll have a full recap in tomorrow night's news.
Shortly after their match tomorrow, they will travel to the Dominican Republic, for their second qualifier match against Turks and Caicos, which is scheduled for next Tuesday.