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FIFA rejects Panama's inquiry request into Mexican player's eligibility in World Cup qualifiers

GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Panama’s inquiry request to FIFA as to whether Mexico fielded an illegal player in three World Cup CONCACAF Hexagonal qualification games has been quashed.

A statement released Thursday by the Panamanian federation indicated that FIFA confirmed Argentine-born forward Christian “Chaco” Giménez is and was free to play for Mexico, following a consultation it made Wednesday with soccer’s governing body.

“We received a very informative notice today, which rejected the issue,” read the statement on the federation’s website.

Doubts over 32-year-old Giménez’s eligibility were raised in the Panamanian press after Club América’s Argentina-born winger Rubens Sambueza was refused permission by FIFA to play for Mexico due to the fact he had played for Argentina’s Under-17 national team in the 2001 U-17 World Cup.

Reports filtered out that Giménez had also featured for an Argentine national team at the South American U-20 Championship, leading Panama to inquire about whether there had been a breach of FIFA rules. However, Giménez was adamant the tournament didn’t count as an official “class A international,” as in Sambueza’s case, in speaking to reporters Wednesday.

Giménez is a recent addition to the Mexican national after having spent the last nine years of his career playing in Mexico. He featured in World Cup qualifiers against the United States and Costa Rica, and in a decisive 2-1 win over Panama at Estadio Azteca.

Despite that loss, Panama were within minutes of qualifying for the fourth spot in the Hexagonal, which would have put them in a playoff series against New Zealand with the winner advancing to the World Cup, in their Oct. 16 match against the US. But Mexico nicked that spot when the US first equalized and then scored the winner to pull out the 3-2 victory, meaning El Tri finished three points ahead of Los Canaleros.

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