U.S. Loses Turf War
Honduran Soccer Fans Drown Out American Hooligans
By David Cho
Washington Post Staff Writer
A dozen or so zealous U.S. soccer fans who planned to razz the Honduran
national team when it arrived at Dulles International
Airport yesterday afternoon found the tables turned when more than 800 equally ardent Honduran fans showed up to heckle
A group calling itself Project Mayhem had planned a rude welcome for
the Honduran players, who play a crucial World Cup
match against the United States tomorrow at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium.
For weeks, the group plotted revenge for the treatment the U.S. team
receives on trips to Central America and the Caribbean.
U.S. soccer officials say players are frequently pelted with fruit, batteries and worse, including bags of urine. In Guatemala,
bands have been hired to play outside the team's hotel all night before a game, soccer officials said.
When Project Mayhem organizer Chris Hummer learned that the Honduran
team would land at Dulles, he put out word on his
Web site asking U.S. soccer fans to turn out in force. He even offered free game tickets to the most enthusiastic hecklers in the
But only a handful of people took up the gauntlet, and within minutes
of arriving at the international terminal yesterday it became
clear that they were the ones being heckled.
Alerted by Spanish-language radio stations, more than 800 Honduran soccer
fans flooded the arrival area. Many had taken off
to be there; some came from other cities, arriving in Washington a few days before the game so they could turn out to welcome
Their joy was Hummer's irritation.
"What a crappy turnout," the Herndon Web site developer said as he made
his way through the raucous throng. "It kind of
backfired," he later admitted as, around him, his group's effort to cheer "U-S-A!" was drowned out by the roar of
For more than an hour, one wing of the terminal became a throbbing pep
rally for the Honduran players, who didn't get to see it
because they were escorted out another exit.
Other international travelers struggled to make their way through the
thick clot of fans, and airport security officers were called
in to maintain order. "Get back! Get out of the way!" one screamed at a fan whose face was painted blue and white -- the
colors of the Honduran flag.
The crowd lingered for about two hours, waiting for the team that never
arrived. Maj. Frank E. Dunn, of the Metropolitan
Washington Airports Authority police, said the players slipped out another exit "for security concerns."
That was disappointing news to Anna Ferrera and her family, who flew
in earlier in the day from Atlanta andhoped to see the
Honduran team. Ferrera, a native of Honduras, said her family spent $4,000 on airline tickets, hotel rooms, a rental car and
"It's the event of a lifetime for us," she said. "Our children have never seen them play live."
Hummer said his group at least got word out that American fans are the
equal of their counterparts elsewhere. "We don't want
other teams to think this is a vacation when they come here," he said.
The United States and Honduras are among six teams from North and Central
America and the Caribbean trying to qualify for
three spots in next year's World Cup, being hosted by South Korea and Japan. The pressure to win what many consider the
world's foremost sporting event can create a frenzy among fans.
Even qualifying round games such as tomorrow's stir intense emotions.
"These fans may only have one chance to see the team
of their heritage," said U.S. Soccer Federation spokesman James Moorhouse. "And they are obviously going to get excited."
Ivania C. Bedoya, a nurse from Woodbridge, may have been the only U.S.
fan to show up at Dulles without being contacted
by Project Mayhem. The native Salvadoran said she wanted to show her patriotism, so she wrapped herself in a U.S. flag and
stood in the blue-and-white sea of Honduran soccer fans.
For two hours, she endured pushing, heckling and even a few pinches
from mischievous boys, she said. "I'm happy to be here,
though," she added in a voice hoarse from screaming retorts. "I'm giving it back as good as I get."
Her patience was rewarded when Hummer gave her two tickets to tomorrow's game. "She really stuck it out there," he said.
After realizing the Honduran team had slipped away unnoticed, Hummer
and his troops called it quits and beat a hasty retreat,
their U.S. flags flapping behind them as they were jeered from the terminal.