Australia’s final bend on the road to World Cup qualification is set to take the Socceroos through one of the deadliest and most dangerous cities in the world.
In order to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Australia must visit the Central American nation of Honduras, after defeating Syria 2-1 in extra time on Tuesday night.
The Socceroos will travel to the city of San Pedro Sula for the first leg on November 9 before a return home leg in Sydney on November 14.
But according to 2017 data, San Pedro Sula is the world’s third deadliest country outside of a war zone, with a homicide rate of 112 people per 100,000.
“It’s not a place many people ever want to go to. In my 40 years in the travel industry, no one has ever asked about visiting Honduras,” University of Technology Sydney travel expert Dr David Beirman told The New Daily.
And according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), it’s with good reason.
“We advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Honduras because of the high levels of violent crime,” a DFAT spokesperson told The New Daily.
“Travellers should pay close attention to their personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources about possible new security risks.”
DFAT’s Smartraveller warns Australians that violent crimes in Honduras include murder, robbery, burglary, kidnapping and carjacking, and that sexual assault is widespread in Honduras, often involving firearms.
It states visitors to San Pedro Sula have been targeted in the past.
“Foreigners have been the target of violent crimes, particularly in and around San Pedro Sula,” it reads.
“Sexual assault of foreign travellers has been reported.
“Maintain heightened awareness of your surroundings at all times due to the very high levels of violent crime in Honduras.”
It also warns Australians of the Honduran hurricane season, where landslides, mudslides and flooding are common between June and November.
Socceroos set to face ‘hostile’ crowd
While Honduras has never won a World Cup match, the Central American nation is highly regarded, and their adoring fans create a loud and sometimes unsociable atmosphere at the Estadio Olimpico Municipal unlike any other.
Former Socceroo Josip Skoko knows what it is like to play in hostile environments.
The midfielder, who played professionally in England, Croatia, Turkey, Belgium and Australia, experienced a “hostile” reception in Uruguay before World Cup play-offs in previous years.
“It doesn’t make it easy but I don’t think it affected us,” Skoko told The New Daily.
“The home ground advantage is probably more of a thing – the crazy, loud fans. That’s probably what affected us most.
“Fans are always going to try things, but the players should know people are out there to protect them, and that it is a matter of 90 minutes and doing your job.”
Beirman recommended Socceroos fans who intend to travel to Honduras to register their presence with DFAT, and get the mandatory yellow fever and malaria vaccinations.
“Australians should be cautious, especially with a place with a few question marks like Honduras,” he said.
“It is off the tourism trail, so safety is the No.1 priority.”
He also advised visitors to travel in groups, and never at night, to avoid potentially violent altercations.