An Australian football great has hit out at hosts of The Project over a joke that's sparked fury in Honduras.
Star striker Tim Cahill was being interviewed on the Channel Ten show ahead of Australia's World Cup qualifier in Honduras when the controversial moment occurred.
After host Waleed Aly asked Cahill if the Aussies actually wanted to win in San Pedro Sula given the city was previously the 'murder capital of the world', Peter Hellier went one step further.
“First they defeated Syria, then they go to the capital of murders, if they win then they will play against ISIS,” Hellier joked.
Cahill initially laughed before appearing to look rather sheepish about the gag, which gained attention and has been slammed by overseas media.
Honduran news outlets are fuming, with Diez labelling the joke 'racist', while La Prensa splashed Hellier and Aly's faces in local newspapers.
Media watch in Honduras. Literally. Channel 10 in the local press. Anger at aussie perception heating up to racist claims pic.twitter.com/lQ9SSlKHyh— David Weiner (@davidweiner9) November 7, 2017
Honduran football boss Jorge Salomon addressed the furore on Wednesday.
“We are upset with some media in Australia that have put the name of Honduras in bad, they have played with the name of our country, that has bothered us all and I think it is something we cannot afford," he said in a press conference.
“Everything that Australian media has published is false."
Mexican sports journalist Gerardo Velazquez also slammed the Australian media.
“You have to be critical when you have to be, when you talk about football, it’s football," he said.
“Poor Australians, I have lived in San Pedro Sula very scary moments when there is hostility against Mexican football, I am not talking about the city (although it has good places, restaurants and hotels).
“At the moment one of the most dangerous cities in Latin America, yes, ...as Culiacan has been, and comparing San Pedro Sula with ISIS, it is already in bad taste.”
On Thursday The Project hosts also came under fire from their countrymen, with Triple M radio host Gus Worland labelled Hellier and Aly "d***heads".
"They’re just disrespectful and they just don’t understand it and they just don’t get it,” Worland said.
“Tim Cahill is trying his best to get himself sorted out to go to the second biggest sporting event in the world behind the Olympics, maybe even the No.1 event in the world. It’s disrespectful to those countries, (it’s) disrespectful to Syria who have gone through unbelievable hardship.
“And then to bring up ISIS — they’re d***heads...they have got to pull their heads in."
Aussie football commentator Andy Harper also took issue with the Australian media's portrayal of San Pedro Sula.
“I’ve been here a couple of times now to Honduras and to this city San Pedro Sula and I’ve loved every second of being here,” Harper said on SEN Breakfast.
“There’s been a lot spoken, there’s been a lot reprinted here about the Australian press coverage. That chat apparently that took place on a program on Channel 10 didn’t go down well here at all.
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“To be honest it’s a little bit embarrassing hearing cheap jokes like that being made.
“People here are sensitive about the social conditions. They’re a very poor country in a very poor part of the world, they don’t need to be told that, they don’t need their nose being rubbed in it which is how they’ve felt.
“It’s taken a little bit of smooth talking to guarantee them that not all of Australia really thinks like that — let’s focus on the game.”
Helliar responded to the furore on *Nova__s Fitzy and Wippa show on Thursday morning.
“I’ve probably received a couple of death threats but I have received more death threats from One Directioners over the years so all is relative,” Helliar said.
“The Honduras version of Cram (Hellier's new TV show) is on hold though. I just heard back, they’re waiting to see how this settles.
“I hope they (Honduras) finish in the top two in the next couple of games against the Socceroos, I really do.”
San Pedro Sula was known as "murder capital of the world" until early 2016, when Venezuela's capital Caracas eclipsed its sky-high homicide rate.
The murder rate in Honduras is still exceptionally high, with about 90 murders per 100,000 people (compared to just one per 100,000 in Australia).