This past week when it was reported that Roger Espinoza would miss Honduras’ upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Panama with a back injury, most people expected him to be out of action on Saturday night when Sporting Kansas City hosted the Montreal Impact at Children’s Mercy Park. Then Saturday’s lineup came out and Espinoza was not only available, but starting and wearing the captains arm band in place of Matt Besler. At the time I had tweeted out that the Honduran federation had to love that Espinoza was starting just days after withdrawing due to injury.
It looks like the National Autonomous Federation of Football of Honduras, the Honduran federation, was less than thrilled that he played. The secretary general of the federation, Jose Ernesto Mejia posted on Twitter about respect, specifically mentioning Kansas City, saying they won’t hear the Honduran’s response, but that they will see it, around the time Sporting’s game with Montreal ended in a 1-1 tie.
Jorge Salomon, the Honduran Federation’s president, said that the federation fulfilled all requirements for calling up Espinoza for the World Cup qualifiers and that if Espinoza didn’t want to report; he should have said so and not said it was a bad back. Salomon basically called Espinoza a liar in the original quote in the above link.
In the same article, Espinoza is quoted as saying that the back injury came up after Sporting KC’s game against the Colorado Rapids on May 27th and did not return to practice until Wednesday, June 7th, the day before Honduras’ first game of this international break against Mexico. Peter Vermes today when asked about Espinoza playing on Saturday and whether it was cleared for him to play by the Honduras said: “Roger was injured prior to that and he had worked it out with his coach how they would proceed forward. That’s between him and Honduras, we gave him the green light to go originally when they first called.”
Salomon said that the federation will be following the procedures set up by FIFA regarding this situation.
What does this mean with FIFA?
So if the Honduran Federation does follow through and report Sporting KC and Espinoza for not reporting to the national team, what does it mean for Sporting KC?
FIFA has published regulations regarding the status and transfer of players that includes an annexe section (Annexe 1) about the release of players for their association team. The section states that the release of players to their association team is mandatory for dates on the international match calendar. One of the articles (Article 4) talks about injured players turning down call ups, stating that if the federation requires it, the player has to agree to undergo a medical.
The interesting part comes into play with Article 5, which talks about restrictions on players playing for their club team during the international window. It states that unless it is otherwise agreed to by the association, the player cannot play for their club during that period. It also states that the restriction on playing for the club shall be prolonged five more days in the event the player did not wish to or was not able to comply with the call up.
From reading those sections, it seems that unless the Honduran coaches said it was okay for Espinoza to stay with Sporting and not have to report, and didn’t pass it up the chain; Espinoza and Sporting could be in a little bit of trouble here.
So what kind of trouble? That’s spelled out in Article 6 of that Annexe. FIFA states that disciplinary measures will be imposed. Specifically FIFA says that they will request that the club’s association declare any games in which the player took part in to have been lost by the club. Meaning basically that if it gets that far, FIFA could request that US Soccer and MLS declare last Saturday’s 1-1 draw as a loss for Sporting Kansas City.
Kansas City’s counter to that though would be that they didn’t refuse to release Espinoza, as Vermes’ quote says, they told him he could go but he spoke with the Honduran coach. At the same time, Sporting can’t plead ignorance in this situation; it’s their responsibility to know the rules regarding call ups so that they don’t get themselves in trouble, even by accident. It would also be embarrassing to be (I believe) the first MLS team to have to forfeit a league game.
This is certainly a situation that doesn’t appear to be over, especially with Honduras taking the field tomorrow in Panama City in a game that looks like it could be a must win for Honduras.