FIFA opened a disciplinary procedure on Wednesday to investigate whether Ecuador misaligned player Byron Castillo in World Cup qualifying, a case that could rule the country out of the tournament to be played at the end of the year in Qatar.
The disciplinary file was opened after Chile filed a formal complaint last week alleging that Castillo is a Colombian national and should not have played for Ecuador in eight South American qualifying matches. Ecuador could be disqualified in those matches — including a win and a draw — that would result in a 3-0 loss.
Ecuador came in fourth place in the qualifiers and seized the last direct place for Qatar 2022. They were in a World Cup group along with Qatar, the Netherlands and Senegal
Chile finished seventh, but could jump to the direct qualifying zone if they receive the six points corresponding to the matches they played against Ecuador, in addition to a better goal difference.
Castillo, a right-back, did not play in the matches against fifth-ranked Peru and sixth-placed Colombia.
Whatever happens with the case, Peru could qualify for the World Cup by playing an intercontinental playoff against Australia or the United Arab Emirates on June 13 in Doha.
FIFA said it will ask the Peruvian federation to “present its positions” on the Castillo case.
In its statement, FIFA said that the investigation will seek to elucidate “several allegations about the possible falsification of the documents that grant Ecuadorian nationality” to Castillo.
FIFA would have about a month to decide due to the proximity of the intercontinental playoffs.
Days ago, the Ecuadorians categorically rejected Chile’s complaint and insisted that Castillo is “an Ecuadorian citizen for all legal purposes, both in the civil and sports spheres.”
Francisco Egas, the president of the Ecuadorian federation, said on Tuesday that “FIFA is not an authority that can determine the nationality of the players … whoever determines it is the local authority.”
“We took all the precautions of the case, in fact there was a great discussion in the country why Castillo was not summoned,” recalled Egas. “We feel calm, because we have acted on behalf of the Federation, respecting absolutely everything, and in fact, we take the time to resolve any controversy that could exist with the documentation before calling it.”
In South America’s qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup, Bolivia lost two matches due to misalignment by using Nelson Cabrera, a Paraguayan-born player, as a substitute.
Bolivia lost an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled that FIFA had the power to investigate when protests take place several weeks after matches have been played.
Peru benefited by receiving three points after the suspension against Bolivia and embarked on a run of good results that allowed them to reach the playoff spot. The Peruvians ended up beating New Zealand and qualified for Russia 2018.