Keron Cummings seemed to have it all going for him. After scoring two goals against Mexico in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the Trinidad and Tobago international had just secured a trial with Orlando City SC in Major League Soccer.
Having just been called up for the Soca Warriors Copa Centenario playoff against Haiti it appeared that the 27-year-old had finally received his big break.
Alfredo Pacheco was on vacation with his family after having finished up his footballing career. Pacheco featured for El Salvador 86 times and was considered one of their top players before he was banned for life in 2013 for being implicated in a match fixing scandal.
Despite this, Pacheco continued to make a living as a footballer and lived a quiet normal life in the United States.
Although the two players likely never played against one another they will be inextricably linked due to both of them being shot on the same weekend. Pacheco, like Peralta, was killed in El Salvador on Sunday while Cummings will survive.
The attacks on Cummings and Pacheco, coupled with the death of Honduran international Arnold Peralta earlier in the month, cast a very dark light over the current stability in Latin America and the Caribbean and provide some clues as to the problems that footballers currently have in the region.
Sadly this subject is not something that is new to those who follow the game. Those of a certain age will remember the horror of hearing about the death of Colombian international Andres Escobar during the 1994 World Cup. Players have also died unexpectedly, such as former Venezuelan international Cristian Benitez.
So why do these three situations stick out so prominently? While obviously each case is still ongoing and much more information will likely come out in the days ahead, the similarities with regards to how each attack occurred and the proximity to one another are more than a coincidence.
In all three incidents the player was shot and that each of the three situations occurred in Central America or the Caribbean, two of the most violent and corrupt regions in the world.
It is not just footballers that are being targeted, but football is often a microcosm of society and these three instances provide a perfect opportunity to look at the culture of violence in the region. In this instance the murders of Pacheco and Peralta and the near death of Cummings point to how violent each of these countries are.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Honduras, El Salvador, and Trinidad and Tobago rank among the three highest countries in the world in terms of their homicide rate.
Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the entire world with 90.4 homicides per 100,000 people. El Salvador is fourth highest with 41.2 homicides per 100,000 people while Trinidad and Tobago is positioned at thirteenth with 41.2 homicides per 100,000 people.
This level of violence often points to instability in governance. That would certainly seem to be the case in both Honduras and El Salvador, countries which are rife with gangs, illicit drug trafficking, and government corruption.
In August it was revealed that the Honduras Social Security Institute had been allegedly fleeced by about $200 million from a former Director and various government officials. In El Salvador former President Francisco Flores is currently standing trial for allegedly embezzling $15 million in earthquake relief donations.
Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago might seem like a relatively stable country but remember this is the same country that allowed disgraced ex-FIFA Vice President Jack Warner to continue to serve in their government until he was voted out in September.
It should come as no surprise that this is not the first time that countries from this region have been tied to either violence or corruption. Anyone who has ever watched a match in Central America will notice barbed wire and riot police officers around the stadium.
Teams are often bussed into stadiums with armed guards. Medical personnel, when attending to injured players, often have to employ the turtle formation once used by Spartans to perform their duties.
CONCACAF has also been the center of the FIFA corruption case. Of the thirty -four officials who have thus far been indicted by the United States Department of Justice half have come from the CONCACAF region.
Those include Mr. Warner and his two sons, Daryan and Darrell, Alfredo Hawit (Honduras-President of CONCACAF and ex-FIFA Vice President) Rafael Callejas (former President of Honduras and former President of Honduran Soccer Federation,) and Reynaldo Vasquez (former President of El Salvador Soccer Federation).
When former Presidents and legislative members are being indicted on fraud and corruption it shows that the issues in each country are not limited to those that commit terrible acts of violence. The root cause is a lack of stability of which football can often contribute to.
So what can CONCACAF do about the violence and the crime within its federation? For starters, it can make sure that funds that are supposed to being used for social economic projects actually go where they are intended. Gangs and violence bloom in areas where there is a lack of opportunity for people to improve their well-being.
FIFA, and by extension CONCACAF, have shown that when they fund social economic projects such as building schools, teaching women’s empowerment, and alerting the public about health issues that they can do some good.
The problem is that many times these projects are often either underfunded or not funded at all.
In the long run the region must start electing leaders that can govern in a responsible manner and look beyond their own interests. It is by no coincidence that a former President like Callejas is responsible for the violence and economic despair within his own country and is somehow able to gain employment within CONCACAF.
The region must start electing individuals who are willing to work on improving conditions in the area for as much as their capacity allows them to.
It might be easy to say that the issues of society have little to do with the issues on the pitch. People often want to enjoy a match and not be bothered by the problems going on outside of the stadium.
But the recent deaths of Pacheco and Peralta and the near death of Cummings are indicators that there are very large problems going on within the region that needs to be resolved.
CONCACAF may not have the biggest role to play in improving conditions within the region but it certainly has a role and must act responsibly in addressing the matter.