Monday 13 July 2015 | Published in Regional
Hours before the Oly Whites were due to take the field in their Olympic Qualifying final against Fiji, Oceana Football Confederation (OFC) announced that New Zealand would have to forfeit the match, and their Olympic dream, due to an administrative error.
Fiji beat Vanuatu on penalties in the final on Sunday as behind-the-scenes ructions continued at the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium in Port Moresby.
New Zealand had advanced to Sunday’s qualifying final against Fiji, which was also the gold medal match at the Pacific Games, following a 2-0 win over Vanuatu in the semi-finals.
Vanuatu, however, lodged a protest with the Oceania Football Confederation Disciplinary Committee who found New Zealand had fielded an ineligible player, and awarded the game 3-0 to Vanuatu instead.
“The committee has declared that New Zealand has forfeited the match against Vanuatu – and therefore Vanuatu proceed to the final match of the OFC Olympic qualifying tournament against Fiji,” its statement said.
The OFC did not name the player, nor said why he was ineligible, though New Zealand Football later said that defender Deklan Wynne had been deemed to be ineligible and they would challenge the decision.
“We strongly refute the ruling regarding the ineligibility of the player in question and we will be challenging this decision,” NZF chief executive Andy Martin said in a statement.
“While we firmly believe tonight’s match should have been delayed, we will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that any final decision is only reached after a proper and fair process has been carried out.
“We trust that Oceania Football Confederation will change its position and conduct that proper and fair process.”
NZF said Wynne had been deemed ineligible due to him acquiring a new nationality under article 7 of the FIFA statutes.
Under the article, either the player or a parent or grandparent needs to be born in the country they wish to represent.
If they are ineligible under the first three criteria, they can represent the country if they have lived there for five years continuously since the age of 18, making the 20-year-old Wynne too young to qualify under that clause.
Such a clause, however, would restrict many age-group players, particularly those wanting to play in the under-23 Olympic tournaments from representing a country they were not born in or had any family ties to.
Gordon Watson, former OFC media manager and Pacific Games soccer commentator, said the situation was quite extraordinary.
“I was just absolutely shocked beyond words,” he said. “Who knows what is going to happen next.
“Where the discrepancy appears to have been picked up from what I understand is that he is not eligible to play for New Zealand until he has spent five years in that country after the age of 18.
“But he is 20 years old so he hasn’t fulfilled that criteria.”
The 20-year-old Wynne has played for the senior All Whites side, as well as playing in the under-20 World Cup recently held in New Zealand.