WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand Football says it will appeal the decision of the Oceania Football Confederation to disqualify its under-23 team from the regional Olympic qualifying tournament for fielding an ineligible player.
The Oceania disciplinary committee ruled on Sunday that New Zealand should be ejected from the tournament final in Papua New Guinea for playing an ineligible player in a 2-0 semifinal win over Vanuatu.
Vanuatu was awarded the match and went on to play Fiji in Sunday’s final, losing 4-3 on penalties. Fiji will now represent the Oceania region at next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
New Zealand Football said Monday it will appeal the ruling that found South Africa-born defender Deklan Wynne was not eligible to play for New Zealand in the semifinal.
The Oceania disciplinary committee upheld a protest from Vanuatu, lodged immediately after the semifinal, that Wynne did not meet eligibility criteria.
Wynne played for New Zealand at last month’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup and has played twice for New Zealand’s senior national team. But FIFA rules state that in order to be eligible to do so he would have to have been born in New Zealand, have a New Zealand parent or grandparent or have lived in New Zealand for five years from the age of 18.
Wynne has lived in New Zealand for five years but, aged 20, does not meet any of those criteria. It is unclear why questions about his eligibility haven’t previously been raised or why New Zealand Football failed to recognize his eligibility might be disputed.
New Zealand could have applied for dispensation on Wynne’s behalf under FIFA rules which allow a player under the age of 21 to switch national allegiance.
New Zealand Football will now challenge the substance and process of the decision against Wynne in the hope of keeping alive its hopes of playing at next year’s games. The Olympic qualifying tournament is the only avenue through which it can qualify for Rio de Janiero and New Zealand was the Oceania representative at both the 2008 and 2012 games.
New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Martin said Monday his organization had received confirmation from the Pacific Games council that all of its players were eligible.
However, it seems unlikely the council was the appropriate body to rule on any questions of eligibility around players taking part in a FIFA tournament.
“New Zealand Football has acted in good faith at all times and we would have expected any issues on player eligibility to have been raised in advance, through the process we were given, so that they could have been dealt with properly in a timely fashion,” Martin said in a statement.
“Our lawyers are working on the appeal currently and are reviewing both the process followed and the OFC Disciplinary Committee’s interpretation of the Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes and how this has been applied in similar cases.”