By Ryan Bailey
Charlotte FC’s latest signing brings a track record of success and passion for a new challenge in MLS
CHARLOTTE—Five years ago, Christian Fuchs cemented his name in legend, as a Premier League champion with Leicester City. The incredible 5000-to-1 title win is regarded by many as one of the greatest accomplishments in all of sporting history—and the Austrian fullback was virtually ever-present when his side defied the odds and shocked the world.
After six highly successful seasons in the Premier League, Fuchs is bringing his winning mentality from Leicestershire to the Carolinas.
“I’ve been to Bank of America Stadium and have a pretty good idea of how it will look when it is packed with fans,” says Fuchs, shortly after traveling to the Queen City to seal his spot on Charlotte FC’s inaugural roster. “It gives me goosebumps thinking about it. Honestly, I can’t wait. 2022 cannot come quick enough!”
The former Austrian national team captain’s decision to continue his career in North Carolina has been a long time in the making: he was first introduced to Sporting Director Zoran Krneta by Charlotte FC Special Advisor Steve Walsh nearly two years ago.
“I actually met with Zoran and Steve a week before COVID hit,” says Fuchs. “We stayed in touch and talked about the vision of Charlotte FC. I was enticed by the idea of being a part of a new venture, and being able to give my input on growing this club.”
Once described by Sir Alex Ferguson as the “most influential person in the Premier League,” Walsh helped build the Leicester teams that won League One, the Championship and the Premier League. In 2015, he scouted Fuchs and brought him to Leicester.
“Steve introduced me to Charlotte,” says Fuchs. “He made it possible for me to be a Premier League and FA Cup champion. I trust his judgment—he will not just work with any club. When he calls me and says there’s a great opportunity, I know it’s for real.”
For Fuchs, one of the biggest draws to Charlotte was the drive for success from Krneta and his technical team.
“The people who are creating this team on the field are very ambitious,” says Fuchs. “There’s already a winning mentality at the club, on and off the pitch. That creates a great environment for players to put on their best performances.
“I want to win. It’s not going to be easy, especially against the established clubs, but Charlotte has the right people involved, who are definitely instilling the right mentality.”
The 35-year-old defender—who also played in Germany’s Bundesliga for Bochum, Mainz and Schalke—is encouraged by the renovations that are underway at Bank of America Stadium.
“I’m very impressed with the stadium and the work that’s being done there right now,” says Fuchs. “It shows the club is very serious about how they approach MLS and where they want to head.
“The level of professionalism I’ve experienced so far is exactly what I was looking for.”
Although a native of Austria, Fuchs has been a U.S. resident for the past seven years. His wife and family live in New York City, and he spends much of his time away from the field on the east coast.
“I have spent a lot of time between seasons in New York,” says Fuchs. “Whenever there was an international break, I would take the chance to come over for a few days to see my family. Of course, I will be based in Charlotte when the season starts.”
Given his familial roots in the U.S., Fuchs has long intended to make the move to Major League Soccer.
“I knew I would ‘move home’ eventually, and the U.S. for me is home,” says Fuchs. “It’s a great opportunity to play with this club and to use my experience to help other players. Whatever Charlotte FC needs from me, I’m happy to assist!”
The 2021 FA Cup winner is also enthused by his first visit to the Queen City.
“I stayed in South End and got a good feel for it,” says Fuchs. “The people I have met so far in Charlotte are very welcoming and friendly, and it is clear that the fans are very enthusiastic. As a soccer player, you want fans who are supporting you.”
Fuchs, a fan favorite at Leicester’s King Power Stadium, was touched by the level of support he has already received from fans in Charlotte. He chuckles when recalling delighted reactions of fans when he replies to their tweets (“I’m a person who likes to answer and communicate with fans!”) and is clearly enjoying his new relationship with the Carolina locals.
“The amount of love I experienced in my first 24 hours was incredible,” says Fuch. “It makes me feel very welcome; I’m very happy with it.”
Fuchs looks fondly upon his years at Leicester City, and notes that the greatest moment of his career came when he wasn’t actually on the field: Leicester won the Premier League for the first time in its 132-year history when Tottenham failed to beat Chelsea on May 2, 2016. The entire squad assembled at striker Jamie Vardy’s house to watch the decisive game.
“The most emotional moment was the second the whistle blew in that game, which made us champions,” says Fuchs. “It was the hardest 90 minutes I never played.”
During Leicester’s miracle season, the Foxes struck up a friendship with the Carolina Panthers, who had simultaneously made an impressive run to the Super Bowl.
As the relationship between the teams blossomed, Fuchs wore a Panthers shirt at training and announced his intention to one day become an NFL kicker. It feels serendipitous that he will now be calling Bank of America Stadium home.
“I did some training with some NFL kicking coaches, and they told me I was impressive,” says Fuchs with a chuckle, when asked about his NFL prospects. “I think I just signed for a club that’s in a great city for that to happen!”
For now, Charlotte FC’s fifth roster signing is fully focused on bringing a winning soccer team to the Carolinas—and he will be raring to go from day one.
“I will be keeping myself fit, and you will see a very fit Fuchs coming to the preseason in January! In fact, I won’t even need a preseason, I’ll already be game ready!”