Ryan O'Hanlon will file dispatches from Honduras, where he is covering the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team's opening World Cup qualifying match, all week.
Some truths about countries: they have people, they have/say they have “a government,” and if they have a mall, that mall is terrible. That’s a redundancy, sure, because every mall is terrible. They’re all too clean, too big, and either too loud or too quiet. There’s a food court, too many nearly-identical clothing stores with vaguely-suggestive first-name names, and always a Cinnabon. Always a goddamn Cinnabon—even in San Pedro Sula.
This being, you know, The Murder Capital of the World, (Jay-Z was wrong, unless he secretly grew up here) we’ve been told to not leave the hotel so we don’t get mugged and to then not resist said mugging if it happens because we will be assaulted with either a pistol or a knife and possibly murdered. The only place we can go safely, we're told, is the mall next door. (Note: one commenter called me a “candyass,” and he/she is correct.) The one with the coned-off parking spot with a stork-holding-a-baby sign (I don’t know, new-born-baby parking?) and the FOODCOURT and CARRION lettering on the outside walls. (I expected a warehouse filled with carcasses. What I got was a Honduran Sears.)
There was a coffee-and-donuts place called DK’D Donuts with suspiciously-similar-to-Dunkin-Donuts magenta and off-orange colors. An electronics store that looked like a bootleg Apple store—same silver, smooth-edges vibe—but claimed to be an “authorized Apple retailer.” Donald’s Barber Shop, which looked like a jewelry store but had taxi-cab and fire-truck seats for kids. The part-Nike-store-part-regular-athletic store that sold mostly FC Barcelona gear and had only two stands-worth of Honduras stuff. (One of the employees followed us around the entire store, keeping a constant three-foot buffer.) And the Ace “hardware” store that sold food, a bunch of children’s toys, and had five (total) bottles of liquor for sale at the register.
Once we found the movie theater, hidden on the third floor and closed—but showing Duro de Matar, El Vuelto, and Lincoln when open—it was time to go. Our search for water and non-beef-jerky snacks was a failure. We walked out, while a guy wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a gun pushed an old man in a wheelchair through the door.
U.S. SOCCER HELD THE day-before-the-game press conference at our hotel because all the journalists are here and because it’s the least San Pedro Sula place in San Pedro Sula. All the rooms have flat screens, shower-baths, white comforters with those annoying half-blankets draped over the top, and all those other nice-hotel things you’d expect from some big American city. There’s a pool, a patio with ceiling fans, a workout room, and three fancy-ish restaurants. The walls are pretty high, too. While here, we’re in San Pedro Sula only in the widest, non-geographical sense.
The press conference was every press conference: journalists asking questions because they have to write stories and players/coaches answering questions because they have to answer questions. No one really wants to be there, but everyone’s always been there, so it keeps happening. I don’t know. Maybe not for the Honduran media, who outnumbered Americans with somewhere around 30 people and about nine television cameras. Their cameras clicked from beginning to end, and they asked most of their questions through a translator sitting next to coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who was flanked on the other side by midfielder Michael Bradley.
Klinsmann and Bradley each have sort of interesting stories. Klinsmann is a German, who lives in California and supposedly uses a helicopter as a means of transportation. He’s one of the greatest German players of all time and was a member of their most recent World Cup-winning team from 1990. He then coached Germany to an unexpected third-place finish in the 2006 World Cup. After that, he coached Bayern Munich, the biggest and best club in Germany (sometimes referred to as FC Hollywood), for less than one season, as he was fired with five games left. And Germany has done even better without him and with his assistant from 2006 as the head coach. So, in general, people are unconvinced.
Bradley is the son of the man Klinsmann replaced, now-former U.S. coach Bob Bradley. While he’s only 25, Bradley’s played 72 games (that is a high number) for the U.S. At first, some troll-types said Bradley was only being selected because his dad was the coach—all this while he was playing and playing well in the Netherlands and Germany, for teams much better than the U.S. Bradley is now a starting center midfielder for Roma, which is in Rome, which is in Italy. They’re one of the biggest and most historically-successful clubs in the country, and Bradley is widely considered (and just is) one of the two best American players, along with Clint Dempsey.