Former El Salvador Soccer Star Alfredo Pacheco Killed

Former El Salvador soccer player Alfredo Pacheco was shot dead on Sunday, the Salvadorian attorney general’s office has confirmed.

Reuters reports that the 33-year-old was found dead at a petrol station in Santa Ana, about 47 miles west of the capital, San Salvador, after an unknown assailant opened fire on the retired international and a group of friends who were chatting in the courtyard. Two others were injured in the shooting and were rushed to a nearby hospital, where they received emergency medical attention.

Pacheco, a defender, plied the majority of his club trade for the El Salvador domestic league side Club Deportivo FAS. The Santa Ana native made his debut for the FAS senior side on March 3, 2001, in a league match against C.D. Municipal Limeño. He was named club captain four years later.

After nine full seasons at FAS, Pacheco joined Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit New York Red Bulls on a season long loan deal in April 2009. The then-26-year-old caught the attention of numerous MLS and Liga MX clubs after impressing for the El Salvador national side in CONCACAF qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, as well as during the UNCAF Nations Cup tournament.

Pacheco’s time in MLS was unsuccessful, however, and the move ultimately marked the beginning of a terminal decline in his professional career.

While the fact that the then-Red Bulls’ head coach, Juan Carlos Osorio, had travelled to El Salvador specifically to scout and recruit Pacheco suggests that the defender possessed the backing of the club’s management staff, he struggled on the pitch. The loan was ultimately terminated after Pacheco had made only 14 appearances in the U.S. top-flight.

The fact that the MLS move tarnished the defender’s relationship with the FAS board and fans meant that a return home was not forthcoming. Pacheco signed a two-year contract with rival El Salvador club side C.D. Águila on June 30, 2010, before leaving to join Isidro Metápan at the beginning of the 2011-12 season.

Pacheco represented El Salvador at every underage level from the U20s through to the senior squad, for whom he made his debut in a November 2002 friendly fixture against the USA. He registered his first senior international goal with a header resulting from a free-kick against Costa Rica in a 2003 Gold Cup quarter-final and went on to win 86 caps for El Salvador, scoring seven goals, making him the country’s record appearance holder.

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But despite Pacheco’s contribution to Salvadorian football both at the club and international level, the player’s reputation was severely damaged when he became embroiled in a match-fixing scandal that ultimately ended his professional career. In September 2013, Pacheco was one of 14 Salvadorian players banned from football for life after being found guilty of accepting bribes in order to lose matches such as El Salvador’s 5-0 defeat against Mexico in 2011 and a 4-2 loss against Paraguay in February 2012.

The circumstances surrounding Pacheco’s death remain unclear. However, the fact that the player showed himself willing to become involved in organized crime during his time as a professional, as well as abruptly losing his major source of income two years ago, has led to widespread speculation that the murder was gang-related. The killing occurred just over two weeks after the former Rangers and Honduras midfielder Arnold Peralta was shot dead in a shopping mall parking lot in La Ceiba on the Caribbean coast of Honduras.

Pacheco won two Clausura titles and three Apertura honours at FAS between 2002 and 2005 and claimed the 2011 and 2012 Apertura titles at A.D. Isidro Metapán.

[Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images]