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Mar 25, 2013

FIFA studying Costa Rica protest

ZURICH -- FIFA says it is studying a protest from the Costa Rica soccer federation, which wants a World Cup qualifier against the United States replayed after losing 1-0 in a snowstorm.

FIFA says its administration "will now analyze the content of the letter and next steps will be determined in due course."

The Costa Rican federation said Sunday that the "physical integrity" of players and officials was affected, "ball movement became impossible" and field markings were not visible in Friday's match played in Commerce City, Colo.

The federation also urged FIFA to punish match officials, including referee Joel Aguilar of El Salvador, for allowing the match to proceed.

For the protest to have a chance of succeeding, it must meet specific requirements stated in the 2014 World Cup Regulations.

One clause says that when a field becomes unplayable, the protesting team's captain "shall immediately lodge a protest with the referee in the presence of the captain of the opposing team."

Costa Rica also had to file written protests with the match coordinator within two hours of the final whistle, and to FIFA's administration by registered letter within 24 hours, "otherwise they shall be disregarded," the regulations state. FIFA had yet to determine whether Costa Rica had followed those procedures.

Costa Rica soccer federation president Eduardo Li Sanchez said Monday that the team was sending additional data to FIFA.

"Before the game started we said the conditions were not right for playing, but we had to play because the commissioner and the referee said the conditions were OK to play, so we had to go out," Li told ESPN's Raza Deportiva. "At halftime, we again made a plea. The commissioner went down with us to the pitch to speak with the referee. The game was stopped and we were taken to a crisis room. When we got there, the referee started the match again. Is that fair play?"

U.S. captain Clint Dempsey scored in the 16th minute to lift his team to second place in the six-team CONCACAF region qualifying group after two matches. Costa Rica is last.

The top three teams qualify directly for the tournament in Brazil, and the fourth-place team faces New Zealand in a playoff.

Costa Rican Football Federation Treasurer Rolando Villalobos said in a statement Sunday that documentation had been sent to FIFA to back the claim, including photographs and videos.

"What happened the night of Friday the 22nd ... has no precedents, since it not only went against the sporting spectacle, but also against the physical integrity of the officials and players," the statement said.

During Friday's game, plows and shovels were used to clear the penalty areas, center circle and midfield stripe as snow got heavier, and a yellow-and-purple ball was used.

Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto urged the referee to suspend the game, but U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann made a case for playing on because both teams faced the same conditions.

The protested loss left Costa Rica at the bottom of its division with one point.

The U.S. Soccer Federation declined to comment Sunday night.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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