There is enough drama just looking at the current CONMEBOL Russia 2018 standings. Brazil have qualified and Argentina sit outside automatic qualification. However, an incident that occurred 10 months ago in Santiago where a 0-0 draw played out against Bolivia is about to change everything.
The incident at question is an illegal substitution by the Bolivian national team on 77 minutes against Chile on the 6th of September 2016. Apart from the fault it was a historic night for Bolivia as they recorded their first point ever in Santiago. Even though Chile could not find the back of the net in 90 minutes a victory could be given behind closed doors.
The player at question is Nelson Cabrera, Paraguayan born with Bolivian citizenship. The 34-year-old defender was illegally substituted on. Cabrera arrived in Bolivia in 2012 having only lived in Bolivia for four years not ticking the criteria marked out by FIFA regarding double nationality. FIFA’s guidelines are the player in question has had to have played and lived within five consecutive years in the country of their double nationality to represent then in official matches.
What happens now?
10 months have passed and Chile have not broken a sweat as their hands are tied as it is now in the hands of TAS. However, it’s the countries who are attending the hearing that has raised discussion.
Argentina, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, Colombia and Ecuador are acting as third-party interested countries which begs the question; Why the involvement of six other countries when the incident at hand occurred in Santiago, Chile between Chile and Bolivia and when these third party countries faced Bolivia they did not play against Nelson Cabrera.
The ‘third interested party’ are there because they feel have been wronged at the points Chile may receive if Bolivia are found guilty which will keep Chile fourth and Argentina still outside automatic qualification.
It is no question as to why Argentina are Bolivia’s biggest support group in this debacle as Argentina cannot miss out on qualifying for Russia 2018 which is why they are sending their biggest weapon to the hearing.
Argentina will send the same lawyer Ariel Reck who successfully lowered Messi’s international football ban of four matches to one. The same lawyer who led FIFA to believe there were no images of Messi swearing to the referee in Chile after a crucial WCQ which is why Argentina feel a little confident. La Roja also have their right to feel confident as they will be represented by Brazilian Eduardo Carlezzo.
Bolivia will have 15 minutes to make their claim, Peru and Chile will have 10 minutes and so to Argentina.
The date set for this to be resolved is 31st of August the same day Chile play against Bolivia in a crucial World Cup qualifier.
This is a very scary situation if you are Chilean even though FIFA claim they are behind them and the other side, Bolivia claim they are being strongly backed by the most powerful Argentina. This drama feels political as Bolivia have nothing to fight for having mathematically eliminated from qualifying for Russia. And if they do win they will still be 40 points adrift from qualification.
So, what are we to expect from this? who knows. What will it mean if Chile lose their case and what will it mean if Bolivia win, why were third-party countries allowed in on this hearing and will we see just how badly Argentina need to be at Russia?