FIFA defaults Equatorial Guinea's World Cup qualifying wins over same ineligible player as in 2013

GENEVA (AP) — For the second time, Equatorial Guinea must forfeit two World Cup qualifying games for fielding star player Emilio Nsue when he was ineligible, FIFA said Friday.

The second FIFA disciplinary case involving Nsue's eligibility comes 11 years after the first and adds to a series of ineligible player cases involving Equatorial Guinea national teams.

The latest ruling against Nsue was announced just four months after he was the top scorer at the Africa Cup of Nations, where he was permitted to play by the Confederation of African Football.

FIFA said its disciplinary committee ruled that Equatorial Guinea’s first two World Cup qualifying games last November must be forfeited as 3-0 losses. Equatorial Guinea won both games, against Namibia and Liberia, 1-0 with Nsue scoring the goal.

That dropped Equatorial Guinea into last place in its six-team qualifying group for the 2026 tournament. It had previously been tied on six points with group leader Tunisia. Only the group winners qualify for the World Cup being hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The ruling writes another chapter in an increasingly bizarre international career for the 34-year-old Nsue, who was born in Spain and has played for clubs in England, Cyprus and Bosnia-Herzegovina. He played briefly in the Premier League for Middlesbrough in the 2016-17 season.

In 2013, FIFA did not specify why Nsue, then playing in Spain for Mallorca, was ineligible to play for Equatorial Guinea in qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

FIFA rules allow players to claim national eligibility if they or a parent or grandparent were born on a territory, or in some cases when a player has been resident for at least five years.

On Friday, FIFA also did not specify the breach of eligibility rules but said its judges were “comfortably satisfied that the player was ineligible.”

FIFA has jurisdiction over the World Cup but not continental competitions like the Africa Cup, which is organized by CAF.

Nsue scored five goals in January during the group stage of the Africa Cup, including two in a stunning 4-0 win over host Ivory Coast. Equatorial Guinea was eliminated in the round of 16.

CAF included Nsue in its Best XI of the tournament in February and said with his Golden Boot award he “joins a list of elite goal scorers” including Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba who got the honor in their careers.

FIFA fined the Equatorial Guinea soccer federation 150,000 Swiss francs ($164,000) and banned Nsue from playing for any national team for six months.

In separate but similar previous cases, FIFA disqualified the Equatorial Guinea women's team from qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics and the 2019 Women's World Cup.

In November 2022 FIFA published an article that tried to explain what seemed a systemic problem with Equatorial Guinea naturalizing players, particularly from Brazil.

The article repeated a 2012 comment from French coach Claude Le Roy that Equatorial Guinea seemed to be acting “like the United Nations of football.”

CAF also acted against the country in an ineligible player case, removing the men's team from qualifying playoffs for the 2015 Africa Cup for fielding a Cameroon-born player who did not have FIFA permission to change national eligibility.

However, Equatorial Guinea was later picked by CAF to host that 2015 tournament — and reached the semifinals — after Morocco withdrew as host citing the Ebola virus outbreak.


AP soccer:

Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press