The Court of Arbitration for Sport will hear the case of Ecuadorian footballer Byron Castillo tonight, who has been embroiled in a controversy regarding his nationality.
Castillo is a defender for the Ecuadorian national team and has been key to its World Cup qualification for Qatar 2022.
But discrepancies about his birth date and place of birth have caused a stir before the World Cup, to the extent that Ecuador faces the possibility of even being kicked out of the tournament.
What is the case about?
The case involves Byron Castillo, who played eight times for Ecuador in its qualifying campaign for the FIFA World Cup 2022. Ecuador won seven of its 18 games in the qualifiers, including a 2-0 win over Chile in November 2021.
In February 2022, Castillo’s nationality came under the scanner, but he was given a clean chit two months later.
In May, the Chilean Football Federation lodged a complaint regarding the same to FIFA and the consequence was the same.
However, in September, two publications Marca and Daily Mail revealed documents and audio tapes where the player talks about him being born in Colombia and his surreptitious entry into Ecuador.
They further revealed that he was born in 1995 and not in 1998, his real name was Bayron Javier Castillo Segura, which matched that on his Colombian birth certificate (revealed by Marca) and that he was brought into the country by an Ecuadorian businessman named Marco Zambrano.
These details cemented the case against the defender and the Court of Arbitration for Sport will finally hear the case on November 4 and 5.
Can a player not represent a different country after being born in one?
Yes. Several footballers like Diego Costa (previously Brazil and then Spain), Apostolos Giannou (previously Greece and then Australia) and most recently Inaki Williams and Tariq Lamptey have switched nationalities.
Following are the rules for changing nationalities, as per FIFA:
The FIFA statutes state that “any person holding a permanent nationality that is not dependent on residence in a certain country is eligible to play for the representative teams of the association of that country.”
In the case of Castillo, that never happened.
He entered the country illegally (as per the investigative reports) and continued playing for Ecuador without revealing his Colombian roots.
Is this the first time he has been accused of fraud in nationalities?
No. This is the fifth time Castillo’s nationality has come under the scanner. Previously, he had been given clean chits by both the Ecuadorian Football Federation and the FIFA Appeals Committee in 2021 and 2022< respectively.
In 2019, he was charged with age fraud and falsifying birth documents in his early days with the Ecuadorian club Barcelona SC and was kicked out of the U-20 national side.
However, in all cases, he – defended by Zambrano – has come out clean.
How does the CAS handle the case?
The Court of Arbitration of Sport usually has three judges, before whom the case is submitted. Under the ordinary procedure, each party chooses one arbitrator from the CAS list and then, the two designated arbitrators agree on who will be the president of the panel.
Accordingly, the case is handled.
Has any other country seen a similar case?
Yes. In 2014, Syria, which had fielded an ineligible player (who was not named by FIFA), was disqualified by FIFA from playing in the third round of World Cup qualifiers.
Tajikistan, which had lost to the Syrians, had taken its place instead.
When is the Castillo hearing?
The case, Chilean Football Federation vs Ecuadorian Football Federation, Byron David Castillo Segura and FIFA, is scheduled for a hearing on November 4 and 5, 2022.
What can be the consequence of the ruling?
If Castillo is found guilty, Ecuador will be kicked out of the World Cup and either Chile or Peru will take its place. It remains to be seen which of the two makes the cut.
If all eight World Cup qualifier matches – where Castillo played – are considered forfeited, Chile would finish fourth, qualifying for the World Cup.
But, if that is not the case, Peru, which finished fifth in the qualifiers, just below Ecuador – would make it to Qatar.