NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Sports
KCUR follows the Kansas City athletes competing in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Kansas Citians With Honduran Ties Cheer On Their Home Country's Men's Soccer Team In Tokyo

Honduras Soccer-77.jpg
Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3
/
Despite the miles, the excitement remains high for fans of the Honduran soccer team who often gather at a Kansas City restaurant to watch the matches.

The road to the Olympics for the Honduran Men's soccer team came at the expense of the U.S. Men's National team, leaving Kansas Citians with Honduran connections only one team to cheer for in Tokyo.

Honduras in March thrashed the hopes of the U.S. Men’s National Team in soccer to play in the Tokyo Olympics. That fact scarred the U.S. soccer community, even as the U.S. continues its current run in the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament among U.S. and Caribbean nations.

But, while debate rages on about the reasons the U.S. isn’t competing on the world stage in Tokyo, the Honduran victory over the U.S. was meaningful to a close knit community in Kansas City. According to the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau, there are around 2,000 men and women of Honduran descent living in the Kansas City area.

The success of Honduran soccer resonates with Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza, who was born in Puerto Cortes in Honduras.

“I always follow the Honduran national team, obviously, because I was a player myself and a fan, so now I’m one of their biggest fans,” said Espinoza, who has played for Honduras in two FIFA World Cups. “It’s great to see them succeeding.”

From time to time, Espinoza has been known to drop by Delicias, a restaurant in Kansas City, Kansas, that specializes in Honduran dishes.

Before a recent men’s friendly soccer match between Mexico and Honduras, soccer fan Adan Borjas, who moved to KCK from Honduras in 1993 walked into Delicias, and chanted for all to hear, “Honduras! Honduras! Honduras!”

All three restaurant televisions were tuned in while Delicias diners ordered menu items like pastelitos. If a Honduran soccer match takes place while the restaurant is open, it’s probable that it’ll be shown in Delicias.

Honduras Soccer-8.jpg
Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3
The Honduras soccer team has qualified for five Olympic Games, starting with the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney.

That hasn’t happened during the Olympics. The first two matches featuring Honduras took place in the early morning hours because of the time difference between Tokyo and KCK.

Honduras, 1-1 in Group B play, has its next match against South Korea, 3:30 a.m. CST, on Wednesday (July 28).

Combined with the Honduran team that played in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the men’s Under-23 Honduran team in the Olympics has provided a spirited lift to a country devastated last fall by the one-two punch of Hurricanes Iota and Eta. More than 3.7 million Hondurans, one-third of the country’s population, were affected.

Espinoza spearheaded relief efforts afterward along with other Honduran players in Major League Soccer to raise awareness and funds for aid organizations that provided critical services in response to the hurricanes.

Borjas returned to his native country last December after the reopening of Ramon Villeda Morales International Airport, which had been closed since the hurricanes caused flooding and damage.

“Oh my gosh, there are too many problems over there,” said Borjas.

On Saturday night, July 24, in a Gold Cup quarterfinal, Mexico eliminated Honduras, 3-0. Meanwhile in Tokyo, Honduras finds itself trying to advance among the 16 nations in group play. At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Honduras finished fourth.

No matter what happens in the remainder of Honduras’ Olympic matches, it’s already a big deal that the soccer team from their country, still emerging from COVID-19 and the hurricanes, made it to Tokyo.

KCUR Correspondent Peggy Lowe contributed to this report.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with essential news and information.
Your donation today keeps local journalism strong.
Related Content