World of Sport

Peru U20 star ‘is 25-year-old Ecuadorian’

Barrios is booked against Ecuador (AFP)

A Peruvian player has left the South American under-20 championships after accusations that he is actually a 25-year-old Ecuadorian.

Max Barrios, whose father claims is only 17, has helped his side reach the final stage of the tournament but officials from Ecuador claim that his real name is Juan Carlos Espinosa and that he has previously played professional football in Ecuador.

The accusation was originally made by a member of the Ecuadorian parliament called Rolando Panchana who is a former journalist – and the complaint was then taken up by the Ecuadorian Football Association.

Panchan claims that the player has been registered in Ecuador since 2004 playing for Liga de Loja, Deportivo Cuenca and Canar Municipal.

The president of Liga de Loja also claims the player was registered with them in 2010 when he was listed as a 22 years-old.

The Peru camp have removed the player pending an investigation but they have protested their innocence by saying: "If confirmed, the selection will not be penalised because we would have been swindled by the player."

Barrios himself refused to comment on the allegations only saying: "Let my father speak, speak to my dad."

Barrios' father Angel told Peruvian radio his son was born in Ecuador but moved to Peru when he was six and insisted Max was a 17-year-old with dual nationality and that he "has a birth certificate that is formal and legal."

Barrios Snr said that the confusion comes from the fact that Max used to return to Ecuador to play in junior tournaments and took the name of Juan Carlos Espinosa so he could be paid for playing under a false name.

He also said his son "feels mortified, is in tears, and wants to give up football" as a result of the controversy.

The tournament, which is taking place in Argentina runs until February 3. There are six teams left in the competition and the top four will qualify for the World Cup later this year in Turkey.

Both Ecuador and Peru remain in contention but the continent's two traditional powerhouses Argentina and Brazil have already been knocked out.

Barrios in happier times (larepublica.pe)