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As US soccer heads to Honduras for World Cup qualifier, politics looms

The Honduras-USA World Cup qualifier - always a tense match - takes on added significance give US backing for recently ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya

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The banner that hangs from the Metropolitan Olympic Stadium in San Pedro Sula sums up the significance of the World Cup qualifier against the US Saturday: "When we play in the qualifiers," it reads in Spanish, "we all play."

For many Hondurans, in the midst of the worst political crisis that Central America has faced in decades, the game in this northern town Saturday will be about far more than just sport. Yes, a win will bring Honduras much closer to a spot in the World Cup – a feat it has not pulled off in more than 25 years. And it would prevent the yankees from securing a spot in South Africa next year on Honduras's home field.

But in a country reeling from curfews, protests, and unprecedented vitriol, most are yearning for the match as a way to simply be on the same side, even if only briefly.

"At least during 90 minutes of the game, and if we win, you will see 7.5 million Hondurans yelling and hugging each other, regardless of what their political sense is," says Mario Gutierrez Pacheco, the publisher of the English-language newspaper Honduras This Week.


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