Hon­duras con­tinue drone ‘es­pi­onage’ wars

Geelong Advertiser - - SOCCER - EMMA KEMP THE TEN­SION

IT TURNED out to be a fam­ily play­ing with a rather mod­ern toy, yet Hon­duras coach Jorge Luis Pinto has re­fused to let go of the “em­bar­rass­ing” drone in­ci­dent caus­ing drama ahead of tonight’s World Cup qual­i­fy­ing fi­nale.

Spy­ing al­le­ga­tions were di­rected at the Soc­ceroos on Mon­day af­ter the Hon­duran foot­ball as­so­ci­a­tion caught sight of a drone hov­er­ing above its train­ing ses­sion at ANZ Sta­dium. The team promptly tweeted a video of the small de­vice next to the cap­tion: “Aus­tralia spy Hon­duras train­ing from a drone, which caused up­set to the team and Hon­duran del­e­ga­tion.”

While FFA’s me­dia staff had used a drone in Hon­duras to film Aus­tralia’s train­ing ses- sions, it de­nied hav­ing any­thing to do with Mon­day’s in­ci­dent.

Upon in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Syd­ney Olympic Park of­fi­cials, the drone was found to be­long to chil­dren play­ing in the nearby Cathy Free­man Park.

It was sub­se­quently grounded to com­ply with the com­plex’s rules.

But asked about it yes­ter­day, Pinto was hav­ing none of it, even sug­gest­ing Aus­tralian of­fi­cials had in­spected every nook and cranny in San Pe­dro Sula in case they’d been bugged be­fore the week­end’s first-leg score­less draw.

“The in­ci­dent is em­bar­rass­ing for such an ad­vanced coun­try,” Pinto said. “When Aus­tralia went to Hon­duras they checked every bath­room, every box at the sta­di­ums where they trained and where they had the of­fi­cial train­ing.

“The videos show more than any­thing a drone can show. It just takes some of the merit away from the fair play and sport­ing event that will be held to­mor­row.

“Let’s not be in­no­cent, it’s es­pi­onage in foot­ball.

“Just like VAR (video as­sis­tant ref­eree) has made it into foot­ball, drones have made their way into es­pi­onage.

Pinto, who this week also claimed a Hon­duran jour­nal­ist had been leak­ing in­for­ma­tion to Aus­tralia, was happy to main­tain the ten­sion with the Soc­ceroos camp.

Asked if his team would de­ploy long balls at ANZ Sta­dium, the 64-year-old threw in a lit­tle dig at Soc­ceroos boss Ange Postecoglou.

“With­out a doubt we’ll be em­ploy­ing long balls,” he said.

“So if the head coach of Aus­tralia is watch­ing this press con­fer­ence he has some in­sight into the game.”

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