Chile has lost its appeal to FIFA to replace Ecuador at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, soccer’s world governing body announced on Friday.
FIFA rejected Chile’s argument that Ecuador player Byron Castillo was actually Colombian and ineligible to play in tournament qualifying, in which Castillo made eight appearances for Ecuador.
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FIFA said its appeal judges “were of the opinion that, based on the documents submitted, the player was considered to hold permanent Ecuadorian nationality in accordance” with football’s legal statutes.
The ruling, which upholds a FIFA disciplinary decision from June and is likely to be taken to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), keeps Ecuador on track to play in Qatar — where they face the hosts in the opening game of the World Cup in Doha on November 20th. The Netherlands and Senegal are also in group A.
However, Chile’s legal challenge may continue.
The Chilean soccer federation said it intends to appeal FIFA’s ruling to sport’s highest court — CAS in Lausanne, Switzerland — which can organize an urgent hearing and ruling before the World Cup.
“This is a dark day for football and for the credibility of the system,” said Jorge Yunge, secretary general of the Chilean Football Federation.
“The soccer world has heard a player who helped Ecuador qualify for the FIFA World Cup admit that he was born in Colombia and that he obtained an Ecuadorian passport using false information. No wonder he refused to participate in the FIFA hearing. What does it say about [the] appeal committee that, faced with all this, they still do not act?
“Of course, we will refer this to the Court of Arbitration for Sport because the weight of evidence is clear, and we urge the appeal committee to deliver the reasons for the decision very quickly because there have been enough unjustified delays and delays in this case.”
Chile claimed to have evidence proving Castillo is Colombian and should not have appeared for Ecuador.
Chile prepared its case after the World Cup draw was made on April 1, and after FIFA and Qatari organizers sold thousands of tickets and accommodation to Ecuadorian fans.
“I have never seen in my entire life as a lawyer an injustice like this,” said Eduardo Carlezzo, a lawyer for the Chilean Football Federation.
“There are a huge number of documents that, alone, prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the player was born in Colombia. Besides that, everyone heard his confession, given during an official investigation carried out by the Ecuadorian Federation itself. In addition, the player joked with the system not attending a hearing and none of that produced any effect. What else is needed?
“It clearly seems that anything we could present would not be enough to validate the claim. A sad day for football and for the fair game. The message is clear: cheating is allowed. We will appeal to CAS.”
Had Ecuador lost all eight games that Castillo played, Chile would have risen to the fourth automatic qualification spot in the South American qualifying group. Ecuador would have dropped out of contention.
FIFA’s legal statutes include a section on national team eligibility when a state government has granted citizenship to players.
“Every person who has a permanent nationality, which does not depend on residence in a certain country, has the right to play for the representative teams of the association of that country”, according to the statutes.
The appeal hearing on Thursday was held far from Zurich with only the three judges present. The chief judge overseeing the case was Neil Eggleston, an American who is a former White House Counselor in the second administration of Barack Obama.
FIFA’s Appeals Committee rarely overturns a decision by the football body’s disciplinary committee.
Chile has filed complaints against a player from an opponent in back-to-back World Cup qualifying tournaments.
In the 2018 World Cup qualifying group, Bolivia lost two games in which it fielded an ineligible player as a late substitute. FIFA received complaints from Chile and Peru regarding Bolivian defender Nelson Cabrera, who was born in Paraguay and previously played for Paraguay’s national team.
Bolivia lost an appeal at CAS, which said FIFA was right to investigate even when protests were lodged weeks after the games were played.
That case ultimately hurt Chile. Three extra points awarded to Peru lifted it above Chile and into an intercontinental final, which it won to advance to the 2018 tournament in Russia.
FIFA then wrote stricter rules for the 2022 World Cup requiring all players in qualifying games to produce a “valid permanent international passport” for inspection by match officials.