After a disappointing 2-3 loss at home against the United States last Saturday that left them in fourth place, Honduras had only one direct chance left to qualify for the World Cup, and it didn’t just depend on them. In order to move up to third place and qualify, they had to win tonight’s game in El Salvador AND Costa Rica had to either lose to or tie with the United States in Washington in games being played simultaneously.
It didn’t begin well. Honduras started out sluggish and Costa Rica quickly scored against the United States. By the end of the first halves, Costa Rica had a 2-0 lead and Honduras was still tied 0-0 with El Salvador. Hopes were fading fast, but in the 63rd minute Carlos Pavon headed in a goal to give them a 1-0 lead. Then, more than halfway through the second half, the U.S. finally scored their first goal. Despite their team’s lead, the Honduran crowd, knowing that their visa to South Africa depended on the United States equalizing against Costa Rica, watched nervously, hoping for a miracle. The game came to an end and fans and players alike were mourning the evening’s outcome, despite their win, when they heard the news. U.S. defender, Jonathan Bornstein, had delivered their miracle by scoring a header in the last few seconds of the game.
Reportedly a former shoe-shine boy from Puerto Cortes, Honduran soccer star Julio Cesar “Rambo” de Leon, was hunched over on the ground crying after the game when a reporter went over to inform him that Honduras had qualified. He lifted his head briefly and then burst into tears again, this time of happiness.
After months of suffering through a political crisis that has yet to be resolved, Honduras finally had something to be happy about. Fans in the stadium went wild as the news that the U.S. had tied the game filtered through the crowd. People immediately poured into the streets to celebrate the victory and the entire country turned into a giant carnival while interim president, Roberto Micheletti, declared Thursday a national holiday.
Soccer is life in Honduras. Under the best of circumstances this would be the happiest day in the life of most Hondurans. But after the anxiety that has dominated life for the last three months, La Seleccion has truly “soothe(d) the soul of a country” (Michael Lewis, http://www.concacaf.com/view_article.aspx?id=4978).
Rumors are circulating that the representatives of deposed president Manuel Zelaya and interim president Roberto Micheletti are finding common ground. With a little luck the “Guaymuras Accord” will soon bring the crisis to an end. Tonight, at least, Honduras feels like the luckiest country on earth.
By Sophia Anderson