Concerns over Castillo’s suitability also seemed to have concerned Ecuadorian officials. In March 2021, Carlos Manzur, the vice president of Ecuador’s football federation, suggested the same in comments reported by the local news media.
“I think it’s a matter of playing it safe and avoiding problems,” Manzur told reporters at the time. “I think he’s a good player. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t let him play for the national team. I wouldn’t take that risk. I wouldn’t risk everything we do.”
About a month later, an Ecuadorian court provided Castillo with an identification document that appeared to pave the way for his debut in the national team, which he did about five months later in a series of games that included a 0-0 home draw to Chile. Since then, he has played a total of eight games, including a 2-0 win over Chile in November, virtually shattering the latter’s hopes of qualifying.
After questions about Castillo’s suitability were raised in the regional media, Ecuador’s football official Manzur said any inconsistencies in Castillo’s documentation had been corrected and his Ecuadorian identity confirmed. “The national team waited for that to be corrected to include the player in its team,” said Manzur.
That will now have to be determined by FIFA.
“Based on all the information and documents collected, we understand that the facts are too serious and should be thoroughly investigated by FIFA,” Pablo Milad, the president of the Chilean Football Federation, said in a statement to The Times. “We have always respected fair play principles and we hope the other federations do the same.”
Ecuador finished in fourth and last automatic place in the South American ten-country World Cup qualifiers, two points ahead of Peru, who will face Australia or the United Arab Emirates in June for a place in the final. Chile finished below Colombia was sixth-seeded in the standings, but Castillo did not play in any of Ecuador’s games against Colombia or Peru. That has led Chilean officials to believe that the six points they would have to take from the forfeited matches — and the six Ecuador would lose — would skip them to Ecuador’s qualifying spot.
For FIFA, Chile’s complaint adds a further complication to a World Cup qualifying campaign that has already suffered significant disruption. The coronavirus delayed games around the world for months, meaning Oceania’s entire series of games had to be held in Doha. Other games were postponed until after the tournament draw. (One of those as-yet-unknown countries was placed in a group with the United States.) Then, in March, Russia was kicked out of the European playoffs after its neighbor invaded Ukraine, which also led to a playoff match between Ukraine and Scotland to be rescheduled.