Bermuda footballers flee Nicaragua riots
The Bermuda Under-17 women’s football team prepared to flee Nicaragua last night after riots broke out in the streets of the capital Managua.
The evacuation came after the Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championships in the country were cancelled in the wake of large-scale disorder in the Central American nation.
Manny Faria, head of delegation for the 26-strong Bermuda squad, said from Managua yesterday that he was “racing” to arrange flights for some of the players.
He added it was hoped the team would leave the trouble-hit city around lunchtime today, along with family members of players who had travelled to Nicaragua to watch them compete.
Team manager Charryse Bean and two of the players, who are both at school in the United States, arrived in Miami last night, with the girls expected to travel on to their schools today.
Ms Bean will remain in Miami to meet the rest of the team.
Mr Faria said it was hoped to get the entire squad and staff home by tomorrow night.
“We are currently at the hotel. It is on the outskirts of Managua roughly five minutes from the stadium,” Mr Faria said.
“We haven’t been near or witnessed any of the protests occurring in the city. We have had adequate protection travelling to and from the stadium.
“We have never felt unsafe during our stay and there is also a security presence at the hotel. We have explained the situation to our players and informed them why the tournament has been suspended. They are quite relaxed at this time as we have assured them of their safety.”
Naquita Robinson, one of the team’s coaches, and three other players also at school overseas, had been scheduled to leave Nicaragua yesterday but could not be processed in time to catch their flight.
They are scheduled to leave tomorrow morning as no more seats are available on the three American Airlines flights today.
David Sabir of the Bermuda Football Association said “all attempts” were being made to get seats to allow the four to travel with the rest of the team.
He said: “There are parents and possibly other supporters that travelled to Nicaragua to support the team, but I do not have any travel details on the travel plans out of Nicaragua.”
Mr Sabir added: “Our team is in the same hotel as the USA, Canada and Haiti and Concacaf tournament officials in Nicaragua continue to monitor the situation.”
The civil unrest has claimed the lives of at least ten people and sparked fears for the safety of competitors.
Mr Sabir said: “The BFA has been advised that the Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championships in Nicaragua have been suspended.”
He added: “Concacaf advised that it is in the best interest of the tournament that it be suspended and resume at a later date and possibly an alternate country.
“The BFA president and general secretary have been in contact with the Bermuda team and have been assured that they are all well and in no danger.
Reports last night said at least 100 people have been injured in several days of protests against changes to the Nicaraguan pension scheme.
Michael Weeks, the sports minister, said he urged “all Bermudians, whether players, parents, officials or supporters who travelled to Nicaragua to take necessary precautions in order to stay safe”.
He added that the Bermuda Government is ready to help if needed and promised to update the public when more information is available.
The pension changes,
which were approved by the Nicaraguan Government on Wednesday, increased pension contributions for workers and employers but reduced benefits.
Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua, announced last night that the proposed changes would be withdrawn in a bid to restore calm.
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