After a mediocre qualifiers campaign on the field, Chile is now trying to get a spot in the next World Cup through a legal maneuver that will see Ecuador missing the tournament.
The Chilean soccer federation filed an official claim asking FIFA to investigate if Ecuador fielded an ineligible player in a series of games of the last CONMEBOL qualifying process, which ended a month ago.
The player named in the complaint is Byron Castillo. His sin? According to the Chilean accusation, he is not Ecuadorian but Colombian.
FIFA confirmed the formal claim from the Chilean FA concerning this matter but refused to comment or give a timetable for the case.
Is Byron Castillo Ecuadorian or Colombian?
Well, that is the big question.
Castillo's nationality has already been debated in the past. A few years ago, his name was involved in a long-term investigation about falsified records among young players. The Ecuadorian FA even avoided calling him up to the national team until he cleared his name in 2021.
The local press covered Castillo's case widely, and journalist Diego Arcos explained that the confusion was caused by a deceased brother of the player who was actually born in Colombia.
"He has a deceased brother, and his name was Bayron Javier. And Byron is Bayron David," he said. "He is from Guayaquil, I verified he is Ecuadorian, but the brother was born in Colombia."
El periodista ecuatoriano de Directv Diego Arcos confirma que el acta de nacimiento colombiana que se publicó es de un hermano fallecido del futbolista ECUATORIANO Byron David Castillo, que se llamaba Bayron Javier y nació en Tumaco. Uno del 95 y otro del 98. Ecuador en Catar pic.twitter.com/mbRB0cW1TV— ALDIA NOTICIAS (@aldiacomec) April 27, 2022
But when the case seemed closed, a tweet from the Colombian journalist, Sebastián Bejarano brought the debate back at the end of April. Chile started to look at the papers and thought there was enough proof to challenge Castillo's eligibility to play for Ecuador.
Acaba de terminar un juicio en Ecuador, donde se han mostrado pruebas de que el jugador Byron Castillo, quien estuvo en varios convocado en varias fechas de eliminatorias por Gustavo Alfaro, es colombiano.Propiamente nacido en Tumaco, Nariño.
Actualmente milita en el Barcelona pic.twitter.com/ZjIOtQUqPe
— Sebastián Bejarano (@sebabejag) April 26, 2022
"The level, both in quantity and quality, of the information and evidence that we have been able to collect has surprised even us," said Eduardo Carlezzo, a lawyer representing the Chilean complaint.
And that's why they decided to proceed.
On the other hand, the Ecuadorian federation released a statement that reiterated that Castillo papers are in order.
— FEF (@FEFecuador) May 5, 2022
Why could Chile take Ecuador's place in the World Cup?
Ecuador ended the qualifier process in fourth place with 26 points, while Chile finished seventh with just 19. In between were Perú (25) and Colombia (23), so why not them?
According to FIFA, the team that fielded an ineligible player will lose the points won in those games in which the player was on the pitch. Castillo was in eight games during the qualifiers, among them the two in which Ecuador played against Chile – a victory and a draw – but in none of the games that Ecuador played against Perú or Colombia.
Both, by the way, are keeping the position they finished during the qualifiers. So Perú, no matter what, will still be playing the intercontinental playoff against Australia or the UAE for a spot in Qatar.
Si le quitan puntos a Ecuador por los documentos de Byron Castillo ganarían puntos.Chile +5
Ecuador tendría -16 pts de deducción, Chile iría al Mundial y Perú mantendría el 5to puesto. Todo esto es un SUPUESTO.
— LaEterna (@LaEterna10) April 26, 2022
If FIFA agrees with Chile, Ecuador could lose up to 16 points. At the same time, Chile will add five, leapfrogging Perú and Colombia and grabbing a direct spot for the World Cup starting on Nov 21.
La Roja, we assume, would replace Ecuador in Group A and will have to play against Qatar, the Netherlands, and Senegal.