- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Ecuador could be expelled from the 2022 World Cup after new evidence emerged Monday that one of its players falsified his age, nationality and passport — and team officials knew about it.

Byron Castillo claimed to be an Ecuadorian national born in 1998, but was in fact born in neighboring Tumaco, Colombia, in 1995. 

Furthermore, he slightly altered his name, from his real name Bayron Javier Castillo Segura to Byron David Castillo Segura, his Ecuadorian alias.

Castillo played for Ecuador in eight World Cup qualifying matches.

Castillo’s fake identity was originally brought to FIFA’s attention by the Chilean national soccer federation in June. They alleged that Castillo was an illegal immigrant to Ecuador and was therefore ineligible to play for Ecuador internationally.

At the time, FIFA dismissed the complaint about Castillo. Chile appealed the ruling, and the appeal hearing is scheduled to be held Thursday.

Castillo has been invited as a witness, according to the Associated Press.

Part of an audio interview Castillo held with the Ecuadorian soccer federation in 2018, originally part of an investigation into Castillo’s professional team, was released by the Daily Mail on Monday.

Castillo’s irregular paperwork first came to Ecuadorian attention after an attempted transfer between his club team at the time, Norteamerica, and another team in Ecuador, Club Emelec, collapsed in 2015. In 2018, Norteamerica was suspended for sponsoring and benefitting from false player documents, including Castillo’s.

In the audio, when asked his birth year, Castillo indicates that it is 1995, as opposed to 1998, as listed on his fake documents.

Castillo identified Norteamerica team owner Marco Zambrano as having procured the false documents. He told interviewers that “Sure, he told me he was going to help me, this and that,” according to the Daily Mail.

In 2019, despite the investigation, the Ecuadorian national soccer federation ruled that Castillo was an Ecuadorian citizen.

Castillo did not appear for the senior international team for Ecuador until 2021, years after the Norteamerica investigation.

If Ecuador is expelled from the 2022 World Cup, its Andean neighbors stand to benefit. 

If Chile is awarded victories as a result of their initial complaint, they would move up to fourth in the South American rankings, letting them play in the World Cup.

If all of Ecuador’s matches are voided instead, Peru will move up from fifth to fourth place, allowing them into the World Cup in Chile’s place.

• Brad Matthews can be reached at bmatthews@washingtontimes.com.

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