| Friday, September 13, 2002 17:02 EST
Moreno's Cup officiating in question
ZURICH, Switzerland -- Byron Moreno, the Ecuadorean referee
blamed by some for Italy's early exit from the World Cup, is being
investigated by FIFA.
Moreno was suspended for 20 matches by Ecuadorean soccer
authorities Wednesday for adding 13 minutes of overtime to a
domestic game last weekend and not registering it.
Italian players and their fans blamed poor Moreno for their
nation's 2-1 overtime loss to South Korea in the second round of
the World Cup in June.
In overtime of that game, Moreno ejected Francesco Totti for
what the referee believed was an intentional dive in the penalty
box. Moreno also made a questionable offsides call that disallowed
what would have been a winning goal for Italy's Damiano Tommasi in
the 111th minute.
"As a result of a number of controversies regarding referee
Byron Moreno in Japan, Italy and South America over the past few
months, FIFA has decided to launch an investigation into the
affair,'' soccer's governing body said in a statement Friday.
"I'm very pleased that FIFA has decided to open this case so
that all these situations can be clarified once and for all,''
Moreno said later Friday in Ecuador. "This is the chance for the
whole world to know that the conduct of Byron Moreno has always
followed the rules and that none of the dirty accusations against
me are true.''
Moreno's ban in the Ecuadorean League followed Sunday's game
between Barcelona Guayaquil, the country's most popular club, and
Liga de Quito.
Moreno added 13 minutes of overtime, during which Quito rallied
from two goals down to win 4-3. But the referee reported the game
lasted only 90 minutes, according to a federation inspector. If
Moreno is found guilty of misinforming the federation, he could be
The referee is running for city council in Quito, Ecuador's
capital, and some have suggested he allowed overtime to gain favor
from Liga de Quito fans. Moreno said he didn't deliberate
misrepresent the match time and that he would take his case to
FIFA, if necessary.
Italian soccer federation president Franco Carraro wrote to FIFA
president Sepp Blatter two weeks ago seeking an investigation after
a Japanese news report alleged corruption involving the referee.
"We're satisfied that the request has been accepted,'' Italian
federation spokesman Antonello Valentini said.