FIFA issues ruling after appeal to kick South American nation out of World Cup
Chile's national football team have lost their appeal to replace fellow South American rivals Ecuador at the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar, though the case is now likely to head to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Chile had argued that Ecuador's Byron Castillo is actually Colombian and was therefore ineligible to play in eight of their World Cup qualifying games, yet FIFA deemed in a ruling on Friday that "on the basis of the documents presented, the player was to be considered as holding permanent Ecuadorian nationality in accordance" and therefore threw the complaint out.
Chile claimed to have evidence that proves Castillo is Colombian, but will now have to take their campaign to the CAS in Lausanne, Switzerland which might order an urgent hearing given the World Cup starts in around nine weeks.
Chile started preparing their case after the World Cup draw on April 1 placed Ecuador in Group A with hosts Qatar – against whom they will play the competition's opening game – as well as the Netherlands and Senegal.
If Ecuador are forced to forfeit the eight matches that Castillo starred in, Chile would rise to fourth in the South American qualifying group and pinch the last automatic qualifying spot.
Should Chile prove successful in their plight, many Ecuador fans will be left out of pocket after thousands of them bought tickets and paid for accommodation to see their country's fourth World Cup appearance.
Chile's appeal was heard remotely on Thursday with three judges present via video link from FIFA's headquarters in Zurich.
The chief judge was former White House Counsel from the Barack Obama administration Neil Eggleston, who continued a trend of FIFA rarely overturning a ruling handed down by its disciplinary committee.
The complaint is Chile's second in back-to-back World Cup qualifying campaigns.
In 2018, on the road to Russia, Bolivia had to forfeit two games after fielding an ineligible player. Along with Peru, Chile claimed that late substitute Nelson Cabrera was Paraguay-born and had also been capped by its national team.
Bolivia lost a CAS appeal, but Chile still didn't qualify for Russia after Peru were awarded three extra points and rose above them in the South American qualifying group.
FIFA created stricter rules for Qatar 2022 in response to the furor, requiring all players in qualifying matches to produce "valid permanent international passports" for match officials to check.
But as things stand, 2015 and 2016 Copa America kings Chile look certain to miss out on featuring at FIFA's showpiece international tournament for the second time running.