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Ecuador Loves This: FIFA Denies Chile's World Cup Dream (Again)

Millions of Chileans are gearing up for an Independence Day weekend full of celebrations. Choripanes, grilled meat and empanadas will be part of the menu, as well as bottles and bottles of red wine — mostly cabernet sauvignons, merlots and carménères — which will come in handy to swallow the devasting news coming from FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. No, Chile is not going to the World Cup.

La Roja was not able to qualify directly to Qatar 2022 after finishing seventh in the CONMEBOL qualifiers. However, since April, the local federation has been trying to take Ecuador's spot in the tournament over the alleged ineligibility of right fullback Byron Castillo, who is accused of being Colombian and not Ecuadorian.

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Chile has presented tons of documentation supporting its accusation and has asked FIFA to deduct all the points Ecuador won with Castillo in the field. The goal? A reshuffling in the final standings in the CONMEBOL qualifiers that would see Chile leapfrogging from seventh to fourth place and earning a direct spot in the World Cup. 

FIFA decision in Byron Castillo case

However, FIFA has said no. Not once, but twice. 

Last June, the organization rejected the complaint, but Chile quickly appealed. And on Thursday, FIFA listened again. 

On this occasion, La Roja — this time supported by Perú — added new documents supporting its version, including the audio of a person — allegedly Byron Castillo — recognizing he was not Ecuadorian but Colombian. That audio was even published before the hearing by the British tabloid, The Daily Mail.

In Ecuador, however, people involved in the case said that the audio was old and it was discarded by legal officials during a previous investigation of Castillo's nationality because it was impossible to prove that Castillo was the person on the record. 

And FIFA seems to have deemed the audio not enough proof either because this Friday ratified its initial decision: Ecuador is going to the World Cup, and, in FIFA's eyes, Byron Castillo is an Ecuadorian individual. 

End of the story. Right? Well, not so fast. Chile still can file a new complaint, now in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Do they have a chance? Hardly. On the one hand, Chile already has two unfavorable court decisions, and on the other, time is not an ally. The World Cup starts in two months, and these legal battles can take more than those two months to be solved.

Chile will go to the CAS, there is no doubt, but at this point, everybody is like "c'mon, dude, just go home." And that includes a Chilean born and raised like me. 

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