Local soccer enthusiasts react to FIFA scandal

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- When professional soccer comes to Fresno it's usually a sellout at Chuckchansi Park. The matches are sponsored by the Fresno Fuego soccer club. Their General Manager Jeremy Schultz says the international scandal does not directly impact the local amateur team, but isn't good for the sport.

"Ultimately it gives our sport a black eye," said Schultz. "And you don't want to have that image surrounding the sport of soccer."

In announcing the indictments against 14 present and former FIFA officials, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch summed up the crimes as the result of simple greed, accused of taking more than $150 million in bribes, to influence where World Cup and other tournaments are held.

Lynch said, "They corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves."

Professional US and international soccer has a big following in Fresno. Local members of the country's biggest soccer fan club, the "American Outlaws" often cram Peeves Public house on the Fulton Mall to watch televised matches. Chapter President Edward Stewart told Action News, he's disappointed, but notes corruption is not unique to soccer.

Stewart explained, "You want to look at these players as heroes the teams as sacred things but the reality is there is corruption in cycling, the Olympics the NFL there's cheating in almost every league."

And FIFA has been suspected of shady dealings for decades. Schultz hopes this crackdown will begin to set things right.

Schultz said, "There's a positive spin to this in my opinion that they clean up some of the things going on so that the future of soccer has a bright outlook."

The scandal has raised hopes that if it can be proven bribes were paid to arrange holding the World Cup in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022, the United States could snag one of the contests. Russian officials have already accused the United States of creating the scandal in order to "steal" the World Cup.

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