On Friday, the Chilean national football team plays in Kobe, Japan in the Kirin Cup donated by the brewery, and they may have a reason to get drunk afterwards. Not because of their match against Tunisia, but because the FIFA Disciplinary Committee wants to meet on the same day – and perhaps pave the way for the Chileans to the World Cup in Qatar at the so-called green table.
Although not all Chileans were uncomfortable with the idea of them winning in court and being allowed to go to the World Cup. Because the team has been doing very poorly recently in 0:2 against South Korea. The match made headlines largely because the South Korean captain saved two Chilean players from fighting on the field. On the other hand: the question of the subsequent qualification of Chileans is only marginally related to sport.
Instead, it’s about a South American case that’s been making a fuss for months about real and fake papers. After Chile visibly failed to qualify for Qatar in the continental qualifiers, the Chilean ANFP reported World Cup participants from Ecuador to FIFA for allegedly illegal formations. Right-back Byron Castillo, 23, who is active at Barcelona club Guayaquil, was not eligible to play, according to the Chilean side. Because he’s not Ecuadorean, but actually Colombian – like his parents, who fled the civil war in their homeland years ago.
Castillo youth club has been frequently targeted for identity fraud
Documents collected by the Chilean federation and submitted to FIFA in fact indicate that Castillo was not born in a place called Playas, as Ecuador claims, but like Byron Castillo in the Colombian city of Tumaco. This includes an extract from the Tumaco Birth Registry. And there’s more evidence: Castillo joined CS Norteamérica from Guayaquil, a club often talked about for identity falsification, in his early youth. And here he is: only after he joined the club appeared documents identifying him as a citizen of Ecuador. Was it fake?
What is certain is that there have always been doubts about the authenticity of his papers. In 2015, an already negotiated loan deal with Emelec failed, and the top Ecuadorean club was not comfortable with Castillo’s credentials. In 2017, Castillo was left out of the Ecuador U-20 squad once. And in the newspaper El Comercio An article can be found stating that in January 2019, a commission of inquiry from the Ecuadorean Federation FEF concluded that Castillo was Colombian. Two years later, in the context of Castillo’s rise, a strange turn followed: in September 2021, an Ecuadorean court declared Castillo’s previously doubtful statements to be true. Then he was called up to A-Elf – and played in eight World Cup qualifiers.
The explicit accusation of the Chileans is that Castillo’s publication was based on a judicial scandal. At the instigation of the Ecuadorean Assembly, Castillo was granted a nationality that he was not entitled to. Meanwhile, Chileans have even found a church baptism certificate dating back to Castillo’s birth to 1995. Therefore, its use in international games is based on criminal intrigue and is also illegal under FIFA rules.
Conviction allegations: Castillo suffers a nervous breakdown during a match
On the other hand, Ecuadoreans insist that they can still decide for themselves who is Ecuadorean and who is not. Castillo himself has not been touched by anything. In May, he received a penalty in a league match – and suffered a nervous breakdown: “Replace me, I can’t take it anymore,” he called desperately and coached his Barcelona coach in desperation. “I am worried about the damage done to Byron and to us,” said Ecuador coach Gustavo Alfaro. “We fought for the right to participate in the World Cup on the field.”
How FIFA decides is open, and the case will likely also end up before the International Court of Sport CAS. The Chilean national team, who will play the opening match of the World Cup against hosts Qatar if they are subsequently nominated, is hoping to set a precedent in women’s football: in 2019, the national team of Equatorial Guinea was excluded from the World Cup due to players having false identity papers. It was used in rehabilitation.
Italy was also under discussion as a possible successor
If FIFA decides in this spirit and excludes Ecuador, the question remains who will come forward. Immediately after the start of the relationship, rumors brought the role of Italy as a reserve team. Because the European champions, who failed badly in the World Cup qualifiers, are currently the highest-ranked team in the FIFA rankings. Italy is an association with financially strong advertising and media partners. Italy has also recently emerged as Qatar’s successor in discussions about the possible exclusion of Iran – due to the ban on women entering football stadiums. The president of the Italian Federation, Gabriele Gravina, insists that they will not replace the South American League. However, the story continued to emerge in Italy, also because it got excellent online flicks.
The only option left is for a team to move from South America. Chile is claiming that all Ecuador matches in which Castillo was involved be decided with a score of 0: 3. This would reshape the table: Chile would jump from seventh to fourth, Peru would still be ahead of Colombia in fifth, so next Tuesday’s intercontinental play-off against Australia. However, lower minimum penalties can also be envisaged, for example a player ban or a fine. Or will everything turn out differently? Will the process even stop?
The Chilean-Brazilian federation’s lawyer, Eduardo Carlizzo, was confident of winning, and said: “It would be a shame if FIFA did not take this burden of proof into account.” However, his confidence in the World Federation appears to be limited: “If we take into account the situation, that the World Cup kits have already been withdrawn, the World Cup has long been held, tickets and travel packages have long been sold out, the simplest solution would be to leave Everything is as it is,” Carlizzo suspected. In any case, the Ecuadoreans are sure that it will be the same: “Everything is a circus,” said their vice president, Carlos Menzor.