The player at the centre of an eligibility row that led to the New Zealand men’s football team being expelled from the Olympic qualifying tournament at the Pacific Games in Port Moresby has been cleared to represent his country.
The All Whites were thrown out of the competition in Papua New Guinea’s capital after a protest made by semi-final opponents Vanuatu, over the eligibility of South African-born Deklan Wynne for the under-23 team, was upheld at a disciplinary hearing on July 12.
The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Disciplinary Committee had ruled that Wynne was ineligible to compete due to him acquiring a new nationality under Article 7 of the Regulations Governing the Application of the FIFA Statutes.
New Zealand Football (NZF) subsequently launched an appeal in August, which was adjourned until September due to their legal counsel being unavailable, as they argued his eligibility falls under Article 6, which would have allowed him to play.
The OFC Appeals Committee met in September to discuss the case, which had caused widespread embarrassment within the football fraternity in New Zealand, and announced in a statement the following month that the appeal had failed.
NZF launched an investigation into the eligibility of all their players in the wake of the saga and applied to world football’s governing body FIFA for an exemption for Wynne, which has now been granted.
"New Zealand Football is pleased to confirm Deklan Wynne has been cleared overnight by the FIFA Players’ Status Committee to represent the national team of New Zealand with immediate effect," read a statement on the NZF website.
NZF confirmed in November that it would not be launching an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport and chief executive Andy Martin said today that the national governing body is keen to put the matter behind them.
"We are pleased this situation has finally been resolved and that Deklan is now free to represent New Zealand," he said.
"We wish him well as he returns to his club to continue his football career."
Wynne, who currently plays for Vancouver-based Whitecaps FC 2 in the United Soccer League, had competed at senior level and at the FIFA sanctioned under-20 World Cup last year without issue.
New Zealand were dramatically chucked out of the Olympic qualifier just hours before they were due to take on Fiji in the final.
Their place was taken by Vanuatu, who were handed a 3-0 walkover win against New Zealand despite succumbing to a 2-0 defeat in the last-four encounter.
They went on to play Fiji in the final later that same day, losing 4-3 on penalties at the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium.
Fiji will now become the first Pacific Island team to take part in an Olympic football tournament at Rio 2016.