Ecuador could be kicked out of the World Cup after one of their players admitted to using a false birth certificate in a confession which was covered up by the Ecuador Football Federation (FEF).
FIFA’s Appeals Commission are due to rule on the case of Byron Castillo on Thursday, and new evidence uncovered by the Daily Mail suggests Ecuador could be jettisoned from the tournament in favour of Chile.
The case boils down to whether Castillo – who made eight appearances in qualifying for the tournament in Qatar – was born in Ecuador or Colombia.
An audio recording of Castillo from four years ago suggests not only that the right-back is in fact a Colombian citizen, but also that the FEF knew he was and have kept it quiet since.
In the formal interview – which was conducted by the head of the FEF’s Investigative Commission in 2018 – Castillo admits he was born in 1995, not 1998 as is stated on his Ecuadorian birth certificate.
He also admits to changing his name on the false document, described how he left the Colombian city of Tumaco for San Lorenzo in Ecuador, and named the Ecuadorian businessman who provided him with the new identity.
“When exactly were you born?” Castillo is asked on the recording, to which he replies, “In 95.”
The investigator’s next questions is, “And which year does the ID have?” and Castillo responds “98.”
Castillo is then asked, “What are your real names?” to which he answers, “Bayron Javier Castillo Segura.”
Castillo then describes leaving his home in Tumaco for San Lorenzo.
“I crossed the border because, you know, teams from Tumaco play in San Lorenzo,” Castillo says. ‘I went to do some trials in San Lorenzo, I remember that very well. I never got picked for any of the teams at those trials, but my friend who was picked never turned up so I went instead.
“I went home, I told my parents that I have to go, but in that time we didn’t have any money, I remember that very well. There was no money. And I started crying. So my Dad said maybe another time and my Mum as well. My mum was worried, she didn’t want to do this to me and this and that. And I was worried. My Dad left around 7, he came back at 11 or 12, with money, 20,000 Colombian pesos. With that I travelled to San Lorenzo.
“I arrived and I didn’t know how to fix things. I didn’t know. They said this and that. We are going to do this, we are going to help you. I needed help. I came here because I wanted to help my family. I knew the situation there in Tumaco. I arrived and started playing without any problem, oblivious. And just now I see all the problems come up.”
Castillo also names NorteAmerica owner, Marco Zambrano, as the man responsible for providing his new paperwork.
“Marco Zambrano did everything for you at the beginning?” Castillo is asked. “Sure, he told me he was going to help me, this and that,” He replies.
A letter outlining the conclusions of the Investigative Commission, which was delivered to the FEF’s president and Disciplinary Commission in December 2018, confirms that Castillo is a Colombian national who was born in Tumaco in 1995.
Despite this, in 2019 the FEF officially ruled that Castillo was an Ecuadorian citizen.
FIFA have been investigating the case since April after the Chilean FA claimed Castillo was ineligible as he is an illegal immigrant.
Chile could be the country to benefit should Ecuador be thrown out of the World Cup.
Recent precedent would suggest FIFA would award two 3-0 victories to Chile if their complaint is upheld, as Castillo played in both qualifying games against them, meaning Chile would move up from seventh to fourth.
But Peru are the other potential beneficiaries if all of Ecuador’s matches are forfeited, as they finished fifth in the South American qualifying table.
FIFA and FEF declined to comment.