Direct ticket to Qatar 2022?: The reasons for FIFA's inclusion of Peru in the Byron Castillo case

“We invite the Ecuadorian Federation (FEF) and the Peruvian Federation (FPF) to present their positions before the Disciplinary Commission”, thus concluded the statement of the FIFA that stirred up social networks around the Peruvian National Team. The highest body in world football spoke on Wednesday morning after the complaint of Chili on the presumed false Ecuadorian nationality of Byron Castillo, reason why it decided to open a disciplinary process to the player. As is known, the footballer played eight games in the last Qualifiers; but he did not face the white-red.

Immediately, speculation began about why FIFA cites Peru in the ‘Byron Castillo case’, after Antonio García Pye, national team manager, stated that the bicolor would not be affected. “If there was any irregularity or negligence in Ecuador, a sanction could be given to them. The issue of Chile and Ecuador has no implications for Peru. Castillo did not play against us and that is why there is no problem. Peru is not affected at all”, he said at the time.

However, the panorama could change for the bicolor, in case FIFA agrees with the Chilean claim. “FIFA tells Peru: ‘Show yourself. You, harmed, are not going to leave’. The decision can even make Peru finish fourth, with direct classification to Qatar, because they can give Chile the points, but not the goals.”, Jhonny Baldovino, an expert in sports law and a judge at the FIFA Football Tribunal, assured us.

Likewise, Julio García, a sports lawyer, welcomes FIFA’s invitation to Peru in the ‘Byron Castillo case’. “It occurs to me that it is on the assumption that Peru can go directly to Qatar 2022“, he claimed. There are also other possible scenarios, which will be developed in this report. That yes, in none of them the participation of the bicolor in the repechage is put at risk.

Why is Peru involved and what would be the scenarios?

After the FIFA statement, in Chile they speculate that Peru would be the great beneficiary in case Ecuador is sanctioned if the falsity of Castillo’s documentation is proven. It turns out that one of the scenarios is that the Qualifiers table runs, with which the bicolor would reach fourth place and have a direct ticket to the World Cup, while Colombia would occupy fifth position (Chile finished seventh), which would finally have to play the playoff against the winner of Australia or the United Arab Emirates, on June 13.

I understand that potentially it could have been identified that within several sanctions that FIFA could apply to this case, one of those could affect the Peruvian Federation. Therefore, I understand that out of extreme care and to avoid probable future annulments, it was well understood to summon Peru to participate in this process.”, considered Eduardo Carlezzo, lawyer for the Chilean side and the National Association of Professional Football (ANFP), who revealed in a conference that the ‘Roja’ seeks as its main objective “the subtraction of points”. The perfect plan.

If Chile (7th, 19 units and -7 goals) receives the five points from the two matches against Ecuador (those played by Castillo), it would add 24 units and, on paper, would win both games 3-0, so would have +1 in difference. With this, they would equal Peru (5th, 24 units and -3 goals), but for better difference they would finish in fourth position and with the direct ticket to Qatar.

This would determine that Chile has direct classification, while the selection would still maintain the playoff. However, Baldovino assures that this is the main reason why the highest body in world football would have included Peru in the problem.

The result of the Qualifiers says that Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Peru fifth and Chile seventh are classified. The first three are inside, and Peru to the playoffs. But there is an issue called sporting integrity, which is a principle that FIFA has and that governs its entire regulatory framework. What is it about? Ensure that sports results prevail, unless there is some fact that modifies it. It is to ensure sporting merit. In the case of the subtraction of points, Chile would be rewarded with a fourth place obtained in the table, and ‘punishing’ Peru with the playoff. There the sporting result no longer prevails, but the administrative one”, he explained.

Another and less damaging scenario for Ecuador is that, if the irregularities are verified, FIFA would choose to sanction the player, but not the Ecuadorian Federation (FEF). If so, Castillo would be fined and suspended, but the “Tricolor” would go to the World Cup and Peru would maintain the playoff.

This was stated by Celso Vásconez, lawyer of the Ecuadorian Federation: “If it is determined that the player falsified documents, FIFA would have to sanction the player, not the federation, because in that case the FEF would also be a victim. Different is the case of what happened with Bolivia (Nelson Cabrera) that registered a player erroneously, without complying with the protocols. In this case, Ecuador registers it based on the sentence of a judge”.

What steps should the FPF follow?

Although there is no official pronunciation, Depor learned that from Videna things are taken very calmly. As announced a few days ago by García Pye, national team manager, “nothing affects the selection”and the main objective continues to be the friendly against New Zealand on June 5 in Barcelona and, soon, the playoff against the winner of Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

Despite FIFA’s invitation to present a position, the idea would be to stay out of the problem and only focus on sports, according to the request of the technical command led by Ricardo Gareca, who is in full planning for the next matches. “The Federation has a group of professionals who will deal with the issue. We focus solely on the sporty aspect. We have to be one hundred percent focused on what we have been doing and then the people in charge of this situation will clarify the issues for us at the right time”, expressed Néstor Bonillo, physical trainer of the national team.

The Federation has it difficult, the lawyers will have to evaluate what to do. They have the complaint from Chile and the opening of the case by FIFA, with these elements they can be more certain of why they ask Peru for an opinion. The most complicated part is that there are only four weeks left until the playoffs. I do not know if it is convenient for Peru to enter the procedure”, Julio García tells us, a key man in supporting Paolo Guerrero’s defense against the TAS in the run-up to Russia 2018.

However, Baldovino recommended that the Federation take an active part in the ‘Byron Castillo case’. “If FIFA agrees with Chile and the reported facts are verified, the Federation must prevail and fight for sporting merit, since the team finished fifth in the Qualifiers“, he pointed.

When would the ‘Byron Castillo case’ be defined?

We could have the FIFA Disciplinary Committee ruling in about a month. But I suppose that Chile or Ecuador will appeal, if they consider that they did not act correctly, which means 15 more days. And then to the TAS which would be more complex”, García clarifies us, hinting that the bicolor could play the playoff this June 13 without knowing the final outcome on this matter. Something that he considers could affect the team. “This could take away confidence from the players, although as the selection is currently managed, the group must be convinced of what the objectives are.”, he finished.

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