Earlier this morning, FIFA announced by way of teleconference that the Cape Verde Islands had been disqualified from World Cup qualifiers for fielding an ineligible player. This forfeiture comes hot on the heels of the Tubarões Azuis surprising 2-0 victory over Tunisia on Saturday in Rades, Tunisia.
Saturday's away win ensured that the Cape Verde Islands had won their group with 12 points after 6 matches played, ahead of the Tunisians by a mere point. The victory would have moved Cape Verde on to the final round of qualifiers alongside nine other African sides, with five gaining qualification for next summer's World Cup. Instead, Saturday's result was overturned by FIFA, with Tunisia awarded a 3-0 victory and top spot in the group with 14 points to Cape Verde's 9.
According to FIFA's disciplinary committee, the Cape Verde Islands fielded an ineligible player, Fernando Varela, in their match against Tunisia. Today's announcement stated that Varela was serving a suspension. As far as disciplinary committees go, FIFA's is embattled in constant flirtation with that which is oxymoronic, failing to apply just penalties for racist taunts and gestures by fans, while top dog Sepp Blatter makes public statements about the governing body's efforts to curtail such displays.
In a sport whose reputation is often tainted by scandal and corruption both in domestic leagues and international matches, today's news may be little more than a drop in the ocean save for the fact that we're talking about the Cape Verde Islands. What we talk about when we talk about the Cape Verde Islands is usually no talk at all, but the archipelago of 10 islands 350 miles off the west coast of Africa, who became independent from Portugal in 1975, were quietly becoming the darlings of world football. Last year, during the African Cup Of Nations tournament, Cape Verde made their presence known by storming through the qualifying rounds only to lose to Ghana, one of the continent's more accomplished sides in the quarterfinals.
The smallest country to ever qualify for the African Cup of Nations, Cape Verde Islands is coached by Lucio Antunes, who had to take time away from his job as air traffic controller to manage the team. If this doesn't put this story into perspective, nothing will.
After a few stellar performance in this year's World Cup qualifiers, the Cape Verde Islands had qualified for the final round for the first time in the country's history.
Today's news highlights one of two things: either they were trying to pull the wool over everybody's eyes, or their FA is run in much the same fashion as your local Piggly Wiggly. Regardless, few tears should be shed for an upstart who brought this upon themselves, but as we prepare for next year's World Cup in Brazil by putting emphasis on recent European matches or CONCACAF's hex play, let's not forget how fun it would have been to witness a nation of not more than 500,000 people on the world's stage.
Many football writers are claiming Belgium as the 'hipster's pick' for the World Cup, when in reality it would have been the Cape Verde Islands, but you've probably never heard of them.