New Zealand ejected from Oceania Olympic qualifier
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand has been ejected from Sunday’s final of the Oceania Olympic qualifying football series after being found to have fielded an ineligible player during a semifinal against Vanuatu.
The Oceania Football Confederation disciplinary committee has upheld a protest lodged by the Vanuatu Football Federation which claimed South Africa-born defender Deklan Wynne was not eligible to play in the match.
Wynne represented New Zealand at FIFA Under-20 World Cup last month and has played at senior level after becoming a naturalized New Zealander.
But Wynne does not yet appear to have met any of the criteria which would allow him to represent New Zealand. Specifically, as he wasn’t born in New Zealand and doesn’t have a New Zealand parent or grandparent, he would have to have lived in New Zealand for five years from the age of 18 to be eligible.
Wynne is 20 and therefore falls well short of the required residential qualification. It was unclear Sunday why his eligibility wasn’t questioned prior to the Under-20 tournament or his two matches for the New Zealand senior team.
Because of Wynne’s ineligibility, the disciplinary committee ruled that New Zealand, which beat Vanuatu 2-0 in Friday’s semifinal, had now forfeited the match and Vanuatu will face Fiji in Sunday’s final.
The winner of the final will represent Oceania at next year’s Rio de Janiero Olympics.
In a statement on Sunday, New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Martin said his organization would “strongly refute the ruling regarding the ineligibility of the player in question and we will be challenging this decision.”
New Zealand said it would make no further comment until the challenge process is complete, so it was not immediately known on what grounds it would appeal.
New Zealand represented the Oceania confederation at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics after Australia left the region to join the Asian confederation.
The decision to eject New Zealand from the final was made at a hearing conducted by the Oceania disciplinary committee on Sunday. The result of the seminal match was overturned and the match was awarded to Vanuatu with a 3-0 margin.
The current Olympic qualifying tournament, which is part of the Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea, is the only avenue for a team from Oceania to qualify for the Olympic Games.
The Oceania Football Confederation issued a statement Sunday saying “in accordance with Article 7 of the Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes, a member of the New Zealand U-23 squad has been deemed ineligible to represent New Zealand.
“In accordance with Article 13 of the FIFA Regulations for the Olympic Football Tournaments, the Committee has found that New Zealand fielded an ineligible player in the match against Vanuatu held on 10 July 2015.
“Therefore, in accordance with Article 73, paragraph 1 of the OFC Disciplinary Code, the Committee has declared that New Zealand has forfeited the match against Vanuatu with a 0-3 result, and therefore Vanuatu proceed to the final match of the OFC Olympic Qualifying Tournament against Fiji.”
The final will be played in the Papua New Guinea capital Port Moresby at 8pm local time.