Gang violence, Zika, hurricanes prove no obstacle for a few devoted Socceroos fans

The Australian government keeps a list of what would seem like quite reasonable reasons not to travel to Honduras: gang violence, murder, mass shootings, car-jacking, kidnapping, drink spiking, hurricanes and the Zika virus among them.

But a small group of Australians are ignoring that advice and flying into the chaos for one very good reason: the Socceroos are playing there.

And a goal - or, whisper it, a win - would take Australia a huge step closer to playing in the World Cup.

The November 10 match (which starts at 9am on November 11 in Australia) at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula is one half of a two-legged knock-out qualifier.

The second half will be played in Sydney on November 15. The winner goes to the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

Fan organisation the Green and Gold Army makes a point of supporting the Socceroos, no matter where they play.

This trip, though, pushes that commitment to the limit. There won't be a lot of sightseeing.

About 20 Australians are expected to make the trip with the Army (others Australians will travel under their own steam), as well as one French-German dual-national.

Tobias Ortner, who lives in Switzerland, became a passionate fan of the Socceroos after he spent several years several years living in Australia.

Since 2012 he has travelled to Scotland, Denmark, Germany, Macedonia, Abu Dhabi, Japan and Malaysia to see the Socceroos play. Honduras, he says, is just another big adventure.

"Apparently it's really dangerous in Honduras," he said. "But I'm not concerned travelling with the Army - they are organised, they choose safe stuff to do.

"I don't know anything about Honduras. I've never been to Central America - it's going to be a big surprise."

Green Army director Michael Edgley said the trip had been rigorously planned by a security team.

"This tour is definitely a lock-down tour, we'll be remaining close to the hotel and to some tourism sites that are well-protected," he said.

"There are definitely some areas in San Pedro that are a no-go zone, but we know the security is very good at the airport and around the ground.

"We have done a lot of research, we're very experienced at this."

The Green and Gold Army group will land in San Pedro Sula on the Wednesday night, then spend Thursday touring the city's colonial architecture. They'll watch the game on Friday, then fly home.

The match promises an atmosphere alien to local sporting fans. It is already front-page news in Honduras's local press; the stadium's 38,000 capacity is expected to be overfilled.

"The AFL, it's not the same type of atmosphere as when you go to international football," says Mr Edgley. "In Honduras, it's a religion. It means everything to them. They know our players more than we know theirs - they are very connected."

The match will have an added poignancy. FIFA will expand the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams by 2026, meaning Australia probably won't face a knockout with a Central American team for a Cup berth.

Some are cheering the effective end of FIFA's bewildering qualifying rules. Others will miss the absurd drama of matches like Australia's famous victory over Uruguay in 2005.

All Mr Edgley is concentrating on is the next match.

"I'm extremely nervous, like any passionate Socceroos fan. Let's not sugar-coat this, it's a really difficult trip.

"It's going to be hot and steamy. If we can get an away goal - or, pray, two, - then come home to Sydney with that in our pocket then we'll be in a great position."

This story Gang violence, Zika, hurricanes prove no obstacle for a few devoted Socceroos fans first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.