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Nov 27, 2009

Chile OK for finals after club backs down

Chile's spot at the 2010 World Cup is safe after a local club withdrew legal action that had drawn the ire of FIFA and put the nation's status in international football at risk.

FIFA had given Chile's football association (ANFP) 72 hours to make Rangers drop a court case that disputed their relegation from the Clausura championship, or else risk a FIFA suspension and the prospect of forfeiting their World Cup berth.

Rangers took action after they were docked three points for fielding one too many foreign players under the Clausura's 6+5 rule. This consigned them to automatic relegation, but their dispute caused the play-offs for relegation and promotion, plus the championship's semi-finals, to be put on hold.

FIFA strictly forbids any government or civil interference in football matters, and wrote to ANFP demanding the situation be resolved. This ultimatum has proved enough for administration-struck Rangers to back down.

"Following the arrival of the FIFA communique, the creditors ... called on me to withdraw the case filed in the courts of justice in order not to prejudice the club," the club's administrator Cristian Herrera told the Chilean CDF channel.

Fans of Chile, who qualifiied for South Africa 2010 after finishing second behind Brazil in the CONMEBOL zone, will be relieved that what appeared to be a long-shot bid by Rangers to stay in the top division won't jeopardise their first World Cup finals campaign in 12 years.

FIFA's letter to ANFP president Harold Mayne-Nicholls had warned of the possible consequences if the action was not withdrawn.

"We beseech your association to call on your affiliated club ... to withdraw the case it took to the Chilean courts of justice within the next 72 hours or ... announce the pertinent sanctions against your affiliated club," a FIFA letter sent to Chile's Football Association (ANFP) said.

"If your association does not adopt the necessary measures as we have indicated, the case will be put to FIFA's executive committee in its session of Dec. 3, 2009 in Cape Town... so it considers imposing a suspension against (the ANFP)," the letter said.

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