Report: Panama asking FIFA to look at Mexican player's eligibility to play in World Cup qualifiers

Could Mexico be banished from next month’s World Cup playoff against New Zealand?

That is what Panama’s federation is hoping.

FEPAFUT has made an “official consultation” to FIFA about the possibility that Argentina-born forward Christian “Chaco” Giménez (pictured) may have been played illegally by Mexico in World Cup qualification, according to a tweet the federation made on Wednesday.

The issue came to the fore on Tuesday when FIFA rejected a petition from Mexico’s federation to allow Club América’s Rubens Sambueza — also born in Argentina — to play for El Tri despite featuring as a substitute for Argentina in the 2001 U-17 World Cup. FIFA changed eligibility rules in 2004, allowing a one-time switch for such players.

Reports from Panama quickly spread about whether 32-year-old Giménez – who featured against the US, Costa Rica and Honduras in the CONCACAF Hexagonal – should have been allowed to play for Mexico considering that he played six times for Argentina during the 2001 South American U-20 Championship in Ecuador.

Panama finished three points behind Mexico in the Hex after a frantic final day of qualifiers that saw them relinquish a lead over the US by giving up two goals in stoppage time. It's unclear if the Panamanian FA is seeking an overturn of any of Mexico's results in the Hex, opening up the possibility that Panama would replace El Tri in the home-and-home playoff with New Zealand next month for a spot in the 2014 World Cup.

Giménez responded after training with his club Cruz Azul on Wednesday, claiming that there is no problem and that FIFA signed off on him playing for Mexico.

“The ruling clearly says that they have to be official games, class A internationals, and at the time of the South American U-20 Championship, Argentina was the 2001 World Cup host and was invited because it was already qualified,” he told reporters.

FIFA’s statute 15 says that any player who has already participated in any match in an “official competition” for one association may not play an international match for a representative team of another association. The dispute, however, appears to be a question of whether that South American Championship constituted official matches for Argentina.

Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at tom.marshall.mex@gmail.com.