Soccer in the World's Most Violent City

Ryan O'Hanlon went down to San Pedro Sula, the most violent city in the world, to cover the U.S. Men's National Team's World Cup Qualifier against Honduras. The U.S. lost, but Ryan came home safely. He wrote about incorrect men talking about coups, a great (the worst) mall, and, oh yeah, the game.

He also (tried to) take some photos and videos while he was down there. What follows is the result.

(Ryan O'Hanlon)
Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano Honduras U.S. Men's National Team soccer World Cup San Pedro Sula

The U.S. Men's National Team Travels to Honduras

Ryan O'Hanlon went down to San Pedro Sula, the most violent city in the world, to cover the U.S. Men's National Team's World Cup Qualifier against Honduras. The U.S. lost, but Ryan came home safely. He wrote about incorrect men talking about coups, a great (the worst) mall, and, oh yeah, the game.

He also (tried to) take some photos and videos while he was down there. What follows is the result.

View From the Hotel

This is the view from our hotel. Or: the view from one of the only places we were told we'd be safe. To the left: a mall. (It is a terrible mall but the word "mall" already implies that.)

San Pedro Sula U.S. Men's National Team World Cup qualifier Honduras Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano soccer
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


The Mixed Zone

The mixed zone (metaphor: petting zoo), waiting for the players (metaphor: animals) to come out. Here, I am removed. Later, I will be the meat of a stomach sandwich.

U.S. Men's National Team soccer Honduras World Cup San Pedro Sula Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


U.S.M.N.T. Training

Sorry to keep throwing metaphors at you, but this blue-and-white flag is a symbol for how the Honduran team is actually part of this ground, part of this stadium, part of this game. While the U.S. (in the background) is just window dressing, not really necessary for any of this and not really capable of achieving anything concrete. Or something like that.

U.S. Men's National Team soccer Honduras World Cup San Pedro Sula Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


Coming Soon: A Scoreboard

Still at training, just turned around. Two things here: the scoreboard would eventually be installed into that big opening. The scoreboard wasn't "functioning" until the end of the first half when someone's Windows desktop popped up on the screen and a mouse clicked around. After that, only about half of the screen really worked; the rest: a jumbled scrabble of different colors.

Two: if you look close enough, there is a man holding a ladder, wearing either a bee-keeper suit or an astronaut outfit. After taking this, I turned around for about a minute, then looked back, and he was gone.

U.S. Men's National Team soccer Honduras World Cup San Pedro Sula Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


Oh Hey, Noah

Here's some of the media lining the field for the first 15 minutes of training. And, oh my God, that's your favorite Brooklyn-based Outside columnist, Noah Davis!

Not that it needs to be said, but Noah did some great work in Honduras for American Soccer Now and Grantland.

Honduras soccer San Pedro Sula U.S. Men's National Team World Cup Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


Another Soccer Field

Behind the barbed wire is a mostly-dirt soccer field that is right next to the stadium and right behind where the press and U.S. team buses left from. I failed to catch any of the kids who ran over to the fence and posed whenever someone flashed a camera because I am a really good photographer.

Honduras San Pedro Sula soccer U.S. Men's National Team World Cup Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


A True American Hero

Some American fans waiting to board their van on the way to the game. That old man has been to every qualifier so far and plans to go to every one until the World Cup. He is my hero.

Honduras San Pedro Sula soccer U.S. Men's National Team World Cup Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


Wrong Gate, Guys

This gate is on the opposite side of the stadium from the gate we initially tried to enter in. A cop came over while we were waiting here, yelled something, and then we walked back over to the original gate and were let in.

Honduras San Pedro Sula soccer U.S. Men's National Team World Cup Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


The Lobby

Just some bikes, a few plastic chairs, and the floor of the lobby of the Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano. There was also supposed to be a "media room," to the left of this photo, with wireless Internet and tables. Instead, it was just a room with no Internet and no tables.

Honduras San Pedro Sula soccer U.S. Men's National Team World Cup Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


VIDEO: Walking In

The walk up to the press section, about two-and-a-half hours before the game. (Watch here.) This will not be winning a Best Cinematography Oscar only because it missed this year's deadline by a few weeks and recency bias will doom its chances in 2014.

Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano Honduras U.S. Men's National Team San Pedro Sula soccer World Cup
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


VIDEO: That Song

If I listen to this song one more time, my brains will drip out of both of my ears, and I will become a human boombox, playing this song—and only this song—out of my mouth, on repeat, forever. (Watch here.)

Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano soccer San Pedro Sula Honduras U.S. Men's National Team World Cup
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


Warm-Ups

Both teams warming up, with nearly an hour to go until gametime. The U.S. has a super-specific plyometric warm-up that only the starters go through. The entire Honduras team warmed up together and then kicked long balls to each other. Also: they won.

Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano San Pedro Sula soccer Honduras U.S. Men's National Team World Cup
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


Stragglers Arrive

Yeah, so, um, this place is beautiful. This is a view down to the stadium's entrance 20 minutes prior to kickoff. I think this was right after I bought two bags of water.

Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano San Pedro Sula soccer Honduras U.S. Men's National Team World Cup
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


VIDEO: Star Spangled Banner

You can't hear anyone singing because there are only about 50 Americans in the stadium, and those goddamn horns don't stop for anything. (Watch here.)

Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano San Pedro Sula soccer Honduras U.S. Men's National Team World Cup
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


VIDEO: The National Anthem of Honduras

Sorry, Americans, but the "National Anthem of Honduras" is way better than ours. Especially when the music stops and the entire stadium sings the end, a capella. (Watch here.)

Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano San Pedro Sula soccer Honduras U.S. Men's National Team World Cup
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


VIDEO: Honduras Ties the Game

This is the stadium right after Honduras scored the tying goal at the end of the first half. (Watch here.) My ears were basically numb to any sound lower than this for the rest of the game.

Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano San Pedro Sula soccer Honduras U.S. Men's National Team World Cup
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


VIDEO: Honduras Scores the Winner

The stadium reacts to what would end up being the winning goal for Honduras. (Watch here.) These kids—the one on the right is the young man with the side-part and the J-Lo shades—are fist-pumping. This is one of the few times—actually, no. This is the only time when that is acceptable behavior.

Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano San Pedro Sula soccer U.S. Men's National Team Honduras World Cup
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


VIDEO: Honduras Wins

He didn't mean to hold the sign this way, but I guess he's right? Anyway, the game is over and a lot of people are happy. (Watch here.)

Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano San Pedro Sula soccer Honduras U.S. Men's National Team World Cup
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


The Fans Leave Happy

A lot of happy people leave the stadium. Did I mention how beautiful this place is?

Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano soccer Honduras U.S. Men's National Team World Cup San Pedro Sula
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


VIDEO: Klinsmann's Press Conference

Those are the feet of Jurgen Klinsmann, the head coach of the United States. During the press conference, I could not see his face from where I was sitting, which was on the ground, on a tile floor, in front of a hoarde of photographers. (Watch here.)

Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano soccer Honduras U.S. Men's National Team World Cup San Pedro Sula Jurgen Klinsmann
(Ryan O'Hanlon)


See Ya, San Pedro Sula

The last shot before our bus left for the hotel. An empty stadium. A bunch of garbage. And some dudes sitting on bags. This place is awesome.

Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano soccer San Pedro Sula U.S. Men's National Team Honduras World Cup
(Ryan O'Hanlon)

Filed To: Adventure / Sports / Events / Video / Travel / Honduras
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