World Cup 2022 hosts Qatar are scheduled to play against Ecuador at the Al-Bayt Stadium on November 21.
Ecuador’s qualification in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is now in danger after Chile filed a claim to FIFA accusing Ecuador of allegedly fielding an ineligible player.
The Chilean Football Association has submitted documentation to the FIFA disciplinary committee showing that Ecuador’s winger, Byron Castillo, used ‘a false birth certificate, false statement of age and false nationality,’ as he was born in Colombia not Ecuador, and is older than what his Ecuadorian paperwork states.
“The practice of serious and conscious irregularities in the registration of players cannot be accepted, especially when we are talking about a world competition,” Chile’s soccer federation said in a statement after filing the complaint.
Playing an ineligible player might result in a forfeit, or multiple ones, according to FIFA’s regulations. This penalty that could over turn the South American qualifying results. Ecuador was placed fourth in Qatar’s recent qualifying campaign, earning one of the continent’s four automatic spots in the World Cup, which kicks off in November.
Chile is demanding that Ecuador forfeits all eight qualifying games in which Castillo partook, with the opponents earning three points per game automatically. If FIFA agrees, which it has in at least one recent case in South America, Chile will be able to compete in the World Cup.
Eduardo Carlezzo, a lawyer representing the Chilean football federation, has told the New York Times that the “level, both in quantity and quality, of the information and evidence that we have been able to collect has surprised even us.”
He also added that a Colombian birth certificate for a child with a similar name born in 1995 and whose parents had the same names as Castillo’s was found alongside the Ecuadorean birth certificate.
The Ecuadorean soccer federation issued its own statement, dismissing what it labelled as ‘false reports’ concerning Castillo, whom it described as an Ecuadorean citizen in both 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 declared.
For several years, Castillo’s background has been clouded by doubts following a larger probe into player registrations in Ecuador that looked at hundreds of cases and resulted in penalties for at least 75 minor players found to have faked documents. Officials from Ecuador’s national soccer federation waited until this year to choose Castillo, fearful of making a mistake that may endanger the country’s World Cup ambitions.
The president of a federation-convened special investigation commission appeared to imply that Castillo was Colombian two years ago, a claim Chilean officials now allege to have confirmed.
Ecuadorean officials seem to be concerned about Castillo’s eligibility as well. In statements reported by local news outlets in March 2021, Carlos Manzur, the vice president of Ecuador’s soccer organisation, said as much.
“I think it’s a matter of playing it safe, avoiding problems,” Manzur told reporters at the time. “I think he is a good player. If it were up to me, I would not have him play for the national team. I would not take that risk. I would not risk everything we are doing.”
An Ecuadorean court issued Castillo with an identification paper a month later, thus clearing the way for him to make his national team debut, which he accomplished five months later in a series of games that included a 0-0 home tie with Chile. He’s appeared in eight games since then, including a 2-0 win against Chile in November that put Chile’s qualifying aspirations to rest.
After issues about Castillo’s eligibility were raised in regional media, Ecuador soccer official Manzur claimed that any discrepancies in Castillo’s paperwork had been resolved and that his Ecuadorean identification has been validated.
“The national team waited until that was corrected to incorporate the player into its squad,” said Manzur.
Qatar is scheduled to play against Ecuador at the Al-Bayt Stadium on November 21 following Senegal’s opening game against the Netherlands at the Al Thumama Stadium.
If Chile’s claim is approved by FIFA, they will be playing against Qatar instead of Ecuador.