U.S. women's tackle football team stuck in Honduras amid coronavirus lockdown

"We just want to get home to our families. We don't know what tomorrow will bring," one player said.
Image: HONDURAS-CHINA-HEALTH-VIRUS-COVID-19
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez speaks at a news conference in Tegucigalpa on Tuesday, March 11, 2020, to confirm the first two cases of the COVID-19 virus in the country.Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images

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By Safia Samee Ali

After all flights in Honduras were grounded amid the coronavirus pandemic, over 50 Americans representing a U.S. women's tackle football team who traveled to the country for a tournament say they are stuck there.

The American Football Events team, a private team from the U.S., left Wednesday to compete in the America's Women Bowl in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. But midway through the competition, the tournament was canceled because of the global outbreak.

"Before we left, we were in contact with the embassy, and they gave us no indication that anything could happen there," said Sandy Glossenger, coordinator and owner of the American Football Events team. "Everyone was on go, so we were on go."

The group of 55 consisted of 39 players from 15 states, as well as coaches, staff and accompanying family.

The American Football Events Team USA at the America's Women Bowl in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Saturday, March 14, 2020.Courtesy Meghan Gianni-Bradford

A few days into the tournament, things began to escalate very quickly, Glossenger said.

The team was scheduled to fly back to the U.S. on Monday, but Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández issued a seven-day lockdown of all flights Sunday night to contain the spread of the virus, which has infected six people in the country so far, according to Reuters.

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Since then, the team has been isolated inside its hotel with limited financial resources. Members are now panicked about the uncertainty of when they will be able to come home and are rationing food and supplies, which they must pay for while they are grounded.

"The hotel is giving us a discount, but we still have to pay for room and food for 55 people for much longer 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.

Player Meghan Gianni-Bradford said she is worried that the lockdown could stretch longer than a week.

"Seven days is the minimum, but if conditions change — which they have been with every hour — who knows if that goes longer?" she said. "We just want to get home to our families. We don't know what tomorrow will bring."

Many of the players are also mothers, so they have children at home whom they cannot take care of, she added. They are also worried about team members who have medical issues, including some with heart conditions and diabetes.

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While they say the Honduran government has been very helpful and has provided 24-hour police protection amid the nationwide shutdown, they have been pleading with the U.S. government to help them come home.

The embassy did not reply to a request for comment.

All the players have been in touch with state and local leaders, but Gianni-Bradford said they need the White House to step in to bring them home.

"We came to Honduras to represent the U.S., and now 55 Americans need help to come home," she said. "I understand people in the U.S. are scared, but we are even more scared being away from home."