Dirty Tackle

Peru U-20 player sent home from tournament for allegedly being 25 and Ecuadorian

Brooks Peck
Dirty Tackle

(Getty)

Peru defender Max Barrios has been removed from the squad currently in the final stage of the U-20 South American Championship after the Ecuadorian Football Federation (FEF) has alleged that he is actually a 25-year-old Ecuadorian named Lennay Kakua Juan Espinosa.

The false identity was first discovered by Ecuadorian member of parliament and former journalist Rolando Panchana, who brought his findings to the attention of the FEF. Says Panchana (via La Republica):

"Professional footballer Juan Carlos Espinosa Mercado, who has played on multiple teams in Ecuador like Liga de Loja, Deportivo Cuenca and Canar Municipal, has been registered in the FEF since 2004, and is a left midfielder. He disappears in 2012 and appears in Peru calling himself Max Barrios, who plays for the Under 20."

The FEF has asked CONMEBOL to investigate the case. Meanwhile, Peru are in the final stage of the tournament after finishing atop Group B, ahead of second-place Uruguay and last-place Brazil, who were eliminated along with host nation and fellow favorites Argentina.

The Peruvian Federation has also begun its own investigation, but claim Barrios' documents are genuine. Barrios' father also claims that Max has dual citizenship and that his birth certificate proves he is 17 years old. The father says Max was born in Ecuador and moved to Peru at the age of six. After that, he says Max returned to Ecuador to play in youth tournaments under the name Juan Carlos Espinosa because of a "quota issue."

Liga de Loja president Jaime Villavicencio, however, says that Max/Juan Carlos was registered with the club in 2010 as a 22-year-old.

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