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Columbus Crew star Federico Higuain being investigated for passport improprieties

Jul 2, 2013, 5:48 PM EDT

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The Columbus Dispatch is reporting some potentially disturbing news for Crew and a potential black eye for Major League Soccer.

The Crew and MLS are endeavoring “to determine the validity of reports from Argentina that designated player Federico Higuain is facing charges of passport falsification,” according to the report.

First off, no one in the league or in Hunt Sports Group, the club owner/operators, run by the sons of an American soccer pioneer who care very much about the family name, want to see the words “passport” and “falsification” attached to one of their players. That’s the obvious part.

According to the Dispatch story, Higuain and 32 other Argentina players from Argentina are being investigated for falsifying documents ahead of professional stints in Europe. In the day of intense border security, this sounds like serious business.

The other matter to consider here is that Columbus is already in an unstable place, recently clobbered by season-ending injuries to two very important figures, starting Brazilian center back Glauber and do-all midfielder Eddie Gaven.

Higuain, the team’s playmaker, is the heart and soul of the team, the one man Columbus absolutely cannot afford to lose at this point. (Well, probably along with goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, having another good season.) If something happens to affect Higuain’s eligibility – and in fairness, we don’t seem anywhere close to anything like a suspension, not at present, anyway – then it’s hard to see Columbus getting into a playoff position. The Crew is currently seventh in the 10-team East, having lost two of three since Glauber and Gaven fell out of the lineup.

  1. geojock - Jul 2, 2013 at 6:00 PM

    What is exactly done to the passport? Could they not get one so was it a fake passport? If not, what did they need to lie about? Citizenship? Still a lot of questions here.

    • Steve Davis - Jul 2, 2013 at 6:10 PM

      Yes, I feel the same way. Fairly vague charges … could be something minor, or could be quite significant, I suppose. That’s why I sub-headed it: Keep an eye on this one.

      • randomhookup - Jul 2, 2013 at 6:47 PM

        From the sound of things, I’m guessing that they used some sketchy documents to get European passports. The Dispatch article refers to “passport falsification” — so the players got passports they probably weren’t qualified to get or they faked some element of it, like birth date.

        Higuain didn’t even play in the EU, only Turkey, so it may not have done him any good. As long as he didn’t falsify his identity (like the Dominican baseball players did), he should be okay with the US, but that doesn’t mean FIFA or the countries involved might not take action…

      • Steve Davis - Jul 2, 2013 at 6:57 PM

        I do doubt there’s any actual legal jeopardy here (although I am certainly NOT an immigration lawyer), but it’s the FIFA eligibility issue that could be a sticky wicket. Plus, just the stain on his reputation, for whatever that’s worth.

    • randomhookup - Jul 2, 2013 at 7:37 PM

      A non-EU based player who has an EU passport is drastically more valuable in countries that have foreign player limitations or work permit issues (like the UK) or salary minimums (like the Netherlands). Getting an Italian or Spanish or Greek passport is extremely valuable to someone wanting to make a living in the sport.

  2. mkbryant3 - Jul 2, 2013 at 7:02 PM

    I vaguely remember sometimes Argentinian players falsifying their Italian lineage in order to play in the Serie A and not count as an international. But, he doesn’t have any Italian clubs in his resume.

    • randomhookup - Jul 2, 2013 at 7:34 PM

      The real value of an Italian passport is you can work anywhere in the EU without restrictions. But he didn’t work in the EU at all — perhaps just got it to make him more attractive to a European club.

  3. mvktr2 - Jul 2, 2013 at 11:40 PM

    Really couldn’t care less unless he’s covering some violent crime. If it’s something like he lied about parentage that’s an issue between he and an employer if it impacted the employer in some way.

    Freedom of travel including the liberty to immigrate is a basic natural right, has been for thousands of years.

    • mdac1012 - Jul 3, 2013 at 1:05 AM

      I personally couldn’t care less about Higuain’s passport status, but freedom of travel has not been a basic human right throughout history and restrictions on travel go back as far as ancient Roman times. But who cares about that? The fact is in today’s world, you can’t just show up in a country, legally, and work if you don’t follow the proper protocol.

      In the end this whole thing will hopefully be about something inconsequential and turnout to be nothing more than a little embarressing for Higuain.

      • randomhookup - Jul 3, 2013 at 6:36 AM

        Well, here’s the kind of thing that *could* happen and cause everyone problems:

        Not that this is anywhere near the case, but it can certainly be a huge inconvenience to everyone when the authorities get involved.

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