Many MLS fans associate D.C. United's Carlos Ruiz with the game's so-called “dark arts,” thanks to his reputation for diving, gamesmanship and a general “anything goes” approach when it comes to scoring goals.
The veteran striker's true character off the field is something different, however, and is being hailed by CONCACAF with a rare honor this week. “El Pescadito” will receive the confederation's first-ever President’s Award for his role in uncovering match-fixing in his homeland of Guatemala.
“Mr. Ruiz’s courage and integrity led him to denounce match-fixing within the Guatemalan national team,” explained a CONCACAF press release on Wednesday. “His actions led to a full-scale investigation, as well as unprecedented measures taken in the fight against match-fixing in the region.”
In addition to being one of the most successful goalscorers in MLS history, Ruiz also carved out a distinguished career in his country's colors, scoring a record 55 goals in 104 appearances for Guatemala over more than a decade of service to Los Chapines.
Though the release did not state so explicitly, Ruiz's award may be related to the lifetime FIFA bans handed down to Guatemalan players Gustavo Cabrera, Yoni Flores and Guillermo Ramírez last year for their roles in three suspicious matches from 2010-12. Two of the games were Guatemala national team friendlies and one a CONCACAF Champions League match between CSD Municipal (the club where Ruiz began his pro career) and Mexico's Santos Laguna.
“The success of football within our region is constantly being shaped by individual actions of players, coaches, administrators and executives,” said CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb in the press release. “We want to recognize Carlos for his incredible courage to stand up for the integrity of our game and denounce match manipulation activities. His long legacy to football has now a deep footprint both inside and outside the pitch.”
Ruiz's actions will be celebrated in a ceremony at Palacio Bolivar in the Cancillería General de la República in Panama City, Panama, on Thursday.