American women’s tackle football team stranded in Honduras amid border closure for coronavirus

By Scott Gleeson USA TODAY

A U.S. women’s tackle football team made up of 55 people is stranded in Honduras amid a border closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The team, part of the nonprofit American Football Events Team USA, was on a trip for a tournament.

It arrived Wednesday and visited a local homeless shelter Thursday to provide donations for teenagers. Then, on Friday and Saturday, the team played in a tournament — the America’s Women Bowl in Tegucigalpa — with Honduras, Mexico, and Costa Rica. At the time, there were only three known cases of the coronavirus in Honduras. But by late Saturday, the remaining games were canceled because the Honduras government would not allow for a gathering of more than 50 people. And when team members arrived at the airport on Sunday, all flights were grounded.

The Honduran government announced all borders (air, land, and sea) would be closed for seven days by 11:59 p.m. Sunday. As of Wednesday, Honduras has nine confirmed cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

“We went undefeated and won the International tournament on a high, and then finding out that the Honduras government closed the border from in-and-out travel was frustrating,” operations manager and co-owner of the non-profit Sandy Glossenger told USA TODAY Sports in an email. “But we have a team motto, that everything we do we do it TOGETHER. So morale is good and we are safe.”

The women’s tackle football team of the American Football Events Team USA is stranded in Honduras. Courtesy of American Football Events Team USA

Glossenger said the 55 people (39 team members along with coaches and staff) are safe and staying quarantined in a hotel,though many are parents who are away from their children. Frustration has grown because the team has been in contact with the U.S. Embassy but had not been made aware that the Honduran government would keep them in the country.

Messages left made by USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday to both the U.S. and Honduras embassies were not immediately returned.

In response to USA TODAY Sports’ inquiry, the State Department issued the following statement Wednesday:

“We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas. We are continuously assessing travel conditions in all areas affected by COVID-19, and will continue to update our travel advisories and safety information for U.S. travelers as situations evolve.”

One of the players on the team is Stephanie Balochko, who served as an intern with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2016 and as the defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Passion of the Women’s Football Alliance. Balochko reached out to followers for help on Twitter, tagging President Donald Trump with a Facebook post describing their situation.

“We have contacted senators and every possible person in each state we are from,” said Glossenger.

With limited resources while stranded at the hotel for longer than anticipated, the team is reaching out for donations to pay for food and board. Glossenger said the U.S. Embassy did assist the team with getting discounted rates at the hotel and discounted room service. The Honduras team from the tournament also helped provide food. The group is still rationing out what food it had.

American Football Events Team USA conducts six annual events to provide humanitarian aid through visits to children, disabled people and camps.

r than we could have ever anticipated,” Glossenger added. “We just want to get home.”

The team is reaching out for donations to pay for food and board while it is stranded.

Read the original story in USA Today by Scott Gleeson.

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