MANAGER Jorge Luis Pinto accused Australia yesterday of a clumsy espionage attempt after a drone hovered over his Honduras squad’s training session ahead of the return leg of their World Cup play-off.
The first leg last Friday ended in a 0-0 draw, leaving a spot at next year’s World Cup at stake tomorrow at Sydney’s Olympic stadium.
The Australian squad flew directly home from Honduras on a charter flight brimming with rehabilitation equipment for the players and landed on Sunday, a day ahead of Pinto’s squad.
The Hondurans were upset when officials saw a drone flying over their practice session late Monday, and posted a video of the drone on the team’s Twitter account with the message: “Selection of Honduras upset by Australian espionage with a Drone.”
Pinto didn’t back away from the claims at his match-eve news conference, saying he didn’t accept the explanation from stadium staff that it was an accidental case of a father and his child playing with the drone in a nearby park.
“Let’s not be innocent. It’s espionage in football,” Pinto said.
“Just like VAR (Video Assistant Referee) has made it into football, drones have made their way into espionage.
“It just takes some of the merit away from the fair play and the sporting event that will be held tomorrow.”
Pinto said it was “embarrassing for such an advanced country” and added that the Socceroos had checked “every bathroom, every box at the stadiums where they trained” in San Pedro Sula to ensure there was no spying on their own sessions.
Football Federation Australia said it had nothing to do with the drone.
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said he wasn’t getting distracted by the claims, and was focused only on getting the Socceroos to a fourth consecutive World Cup.