Chile’s bid to have its South American rival Ecuador thrown out of soccer’s World Cup failed on Friday when a disciplinary panel at soccer’s global governing body rejected a claim that Ecuador had fielded an ineligible player in several qualification matches.
The case involved the defender Byron Castillo, who Chile contended was not only born in Colombia but also three years older than is stated on the documents used to identify him as Ecuadorean. Chile’s soccer federation produced registry documents, including birth certificates, that it said supported its claim.
Under the rules of the governing body, FIFA, fielding an ineligible player could result in a forfeit of any match in which an ineligible player took part.
Ecuador finished fourth in the continent’s qualifying competition, claiming one of South America’s four automatic places in the World Cup. But Chile had demanded that Ecuador forfeit the eight qualification games in which Castillo appeared, and that its opponents in those matches be granted three points per game. That outcome, Chilean officials had calculated, would rearrange the qualifying results in South America and lift Chile into the World Cup at Ecuador’s expense.
FIFA said its officials had analyzed submissions from all the parties involved in the case — which also involved Peru, which will compete in an intercontinental playoff next week for its own place in Qatar — before concluding that Ecuador had no case to answer.
Chile said it would appeal the ruling.
“We are dismayed with the decision,” said Eduardo Carlezzo, a lawyer representing the Chilean federation. “The amount of evidence is huge, both from Colombia and Ecuador, proving without any reasonable doubt that the player was born in Colombia. Therefore, we will appeal and we hope that those evidences shall be full considered.”
Ecuador’s soccer federation released a statement after Chile filed its claim in May in which it rejected what it called “false rumors” about Castillo, who it said was an Ecuadorean citizen in a legal and sporting sense.
“We categorically reject any attempt by those who seek to avoid our participation in the World Cup in Qatar, which was legitimately obtained on the field,” the federation said at the time.
Castillo’s background has been shrouded in questions for several years after a wider investigation into player registrations in Ecuador looked into hundreds of cases and resulted in punishments for at least 75 youth players found to have falsified records. Wary of a mistake that might jeopardize Ecuador’s World Cup hopes this year, officials from its national soccer federation had held off selecting Castillo for the senior national team until this year.
Two years ago, in fact, the president of a special investigation commission convened by the federation appeared to suggest Castillo was Colombian, something that Chilean officials continued to argue they had substantiated.