Canada’s World Cup qualifying fate will be decided in a crumbling stadium surrounded by barbed wire.
Built in 1997 for the Central American Olympic Games, Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano can accommodate some 40,000, with many of those standing or sitting on bench-like steps in the hot sun.
A win or tie will move Canada (3-1-1) into the final round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Honduras (2-1-2) needs to win to keep going.
Canada has not reached the final qualifying round since 1997, when it finished last with a 1-6-3 record.
Tuesday’s venue is old-school, complete with what could serve as a moat around the fenced pitch which is further distanced from fans in the stands by a running track.
Canada was due to arrive in Honduras’ second largest city by charter early Sunday afternoon, but their arrival was pushed back after a delayed takeoff in Toronto.
Armed police were awaiting their arrival. Police with machine guns have been stationed outside the team’s well-appointed hotel.
Players will no doubt enjoy the pool and perhaps the local scenery. On Saturday night, the bar drew a steady stream of beautiful people. The heels were high, as were the skirts.
The security is no mere window dressing for a country whose name means “Deep Waters” — a label applied by Christopher Columbus after landing in a deep bay off the country’s northern coast.
A 2011 study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime titled “Global Study on Homicide” reported that Honduras had the highest per capita murder rate in the world (82.1 per 100,000). In comparison, Canada’s rate was 1.8.
The Honduran homicide rate has more than doubled between 2005 and 2010.
The Washington Post, quoting Mexico’s non-profit Civic Council on Public Security and Criminal Justice, reported in January that San Pedro Sula was the world’s most violent place in 2011, surpassing the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez.
San Pedro Sula had 159 homicides per 100,000 residents last year, followed by Ciudad Juarez at 148 killings per 100,000.
In downtown San Pedro Sula on Sunday, however, locals enjoyed yet a sunny day in the bustling square in front of the picturesque city cathedral.
McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Popeyes were familiar signs, alongside the more colourful Pollo Campero. Street vendors hawked every kind of mobile phone.
A local restaurant’s sign advertised “Sport Meat.”
Street vendor Moses Bunce, a wad of cash in his hand, was looking to sell tickets for Tuesday’s game for 150 Honduras lempiras — about C$7.50.
The city is an exercise in extremes.
Away from downtown, a busy mall offered North American standards from Tommy Hilfiger to Radio Shack. Getting there by cab involved passing a dead dog wrapped in canvas alongside the road.
Nestled in scenic green hills, San Pedro Sula is an adventure in driving. At night, pedestrians pop out of nowhere.
Traffic signs seem to be tolerated, if not adhered to strictly, although there is a certain courtesy between drivers. Licence plates seem optional.
The city, located in the northwest of the country near the Guatemala border, is considered Honduras’ industrial capital.
San Pedro Sulfa is home to two Honduran league club teams — Real Espana and C.D. Marathon — neither of which regularly plays in the stadium that will host Tuesday’s game.