AFCON star Nsue ruled as ineligible for international career

FIFA judges have ruled that, Emilio Nsue, the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations top scorer, was never eligible to play for Equatorial Guinea throughout his entire 11-year international career.

FIFA has now published a detailed verdict to explain why its disciplinary committee last month stripped two wins from Equatorial Guinea in qualifying games for the 2026 World Cup in November.

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Nsue, 34, scored in two 1-0 wins over Namibia and Liberia. The former Spain youth and under-21 international should not have played in either game and is now banned by FIFA for six months from national-team games.

It was a repeat judgment of FIFA disciplinary verdicts in 2013 that also ordered Equatorial Guinea to default two qualifying games for the 2014 World Cup as 3-0 losses because Nsue was ineligible.

FIFA said its disciplinary judges in the most recent investigation confirmed the reason from the 2013 cases -- that Nsue was ineligible because he played competitive games for Spain's age-group teams before acquiring his new nationality.

Nsue "apparently only acquired the Equatoguinean nationality (March 2013) after having played in his first international match in an official competition" with Spain, the FIFA judges wrote in their judgment.

The player had in fact played 26 competitive games for Spain teams from U16 to U21 levels across six years through 2011.

The 15-page FIFA document dated May 10, 2024 detailed what seemed to have been a chaotic process a decade earlier for the Equatoguinean federation trying to get Nsue approved.

The federation asked Spanish officials, but not FIFA, in 2013 for Nsue's release then selected and fielded him in two World Cup qualifying games without formal permission. Those games were later defaulted as 3-0 losses.

In December 2013, FIFA denied the request for Nsue to change eligibility and cited the belatedly acquired new nationality. Yet he continued to play for the Equatorial Guinea team.

Nsue "still took part in a substantial number of matches for the (men's senior) representative team of the FEGUIFOOT over a significant period of time (while undoubtedly knowing that he was ineligible)," the FIFA judges wrote.

He played in World Cup qualifying games for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments despite those disciplinary cases and defaulted games from the 2014 edition. It is unclear why FIFA did not prosecute those games.

Nsue also played at the 2015 African Cup of Nations that Equatorial Guinea staged as a replacement host despite earlier being disqualified from the qualifying program over an ineligible player. He also played at the 2022 AFCON, organized outside FIFA's control by the Confederation of African Football.

Nsue now has played more than 40 national-team games and scored 23 goals, including five in January at the most recent AFCON. The publicity he received in Ivory Coast seemed to have provoked a renewed disciplinary case.

The latest investigation was opened by FIFA in March and Nsue was contacted with a six-day deadline to respond to the pending charge.

"No position was received from the respondent," FIFA judges wrote.

The judges also explained they took action only against Nsue's 2026 World Cup games because that is an active competition.

Nsue, who now plays for Spanish lower-tier team Intercity, and his national federation can appeal against the sanctions, first to FIFA and later the Court of Arbitration for Sport.